West Nile Virus Affects People and Animals

[American crow]Every summer in Illinois, infections with West Nile virus undoubtably make the news. Spread by mosquitoes, West Nile virus may cause flu-like symptoms in otherwise healthy adults; however, those who are immunocompromised suffer more severe symptoms or even fatality from infection.

Infections with West Nile virus are closely monitored by public health agencies during mosquito season to protect especially vulnerable populations if necessary. Did you know veterinarians can play an important role in identifying and controlling this disease?

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Photo from Pixabay

One of the ways the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) monitors the prevalence of West Nile virus is by collecting data on sick animals. While most infected animals cannot pass the virus to people or other animals, their infection serves as an indicator of infection hot spots. The IDPH can then use the information garnered from infections in animals to advise surrounding communities that mosquitoes carrying the disease are in the area.

Animals that are outside much of the day, such as horses and birds, are particularly important for this monitoring program. Veterinarians know to consider this virus when sick animals are presented during the summer months.

At the Wildlife Medical Clinic, we consider this virus as a potential cause of any neurological signs in a bird during the mosquito season. We typically have a handful of West Nile virus cases each year. American Crows are particularly susceptible to the effects of this disease, though we see raptor species affected as well.

Treatment of this disease in birds, much like in people, is limited to supportive care. By managing the symptoms of the disease, we work to support the bird’s immune system and to help the animal recover over time.

If you’d like to learn more about West Nile virus and how veterinarians play a part in public health and safety, check out these links:

Photo of American crow from Pixabay.