Recently, Kerala’s health department has reported West Nile fever cases in three districts of Kerala.

About the West Nile virus

  • It is transmitted by Culex species of mosquitoes.
  • It was first detected in Uganda in 1937. 
  • Kerala reported its first case in 2011, with a child fatality in 2019. 
  • It can cause severe neurological illness.
  • In 1% of the cases, it can lead to brain damage resulting in unconsciousness and sometimes death.
  • Spread primarily by mosquito bites, it occasionally transfers through blood transfusions, organ transplants, and from mother to baby.


  • The main signs and symptoms of fever are headache, stiff neck, stupor, confusion, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, loss of vision, numbness, and paralysis. 
  • Most cases of the West Nile virus do not present any symptoms.
  • People of any age can suffer from severe illness. 
  • However, if they are infected, those over 60 are at greater risk for a serious illness.
  • Individuals who have undergone kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and who have had organ transplants are also more vulnerable.
  • Most people (8 out of 10) infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms at all. 
  • One in five people infected with the virus show flu-like symptoms like fever, body ache, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes.


  • There are no vaccines or specific medicines available for those suffering from the West Nile virus infection.


Recovery from severe illness due to West Nile fever likely takes several weeks or months. Some effects on the central nervous system might be permanent. 

  • About 1 out of 10 people who develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system die.

Patients would require “supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care.

In most cases, the infection heals itself. 

Most people with febrile illness due to West Nile virus recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.


  • Medication may be needed to treat the flu-like symptoms caused by the virus. 
  • Most health departments recommend covering the body and using mosquito repellents to prevent West Nile virus infections.

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