What is the West Nile Virus?

What is it?

West Nile virus is a strand of RNA virus that causes West Nile fever. This virus is a member of the family Flaviviridae. The genus Flavivirus contains many other deadly diseases such as the dengue fever, zika virus, and yellow fever virus. The primary transmitter of this virus is mosquitos, and the primary host of this virus is birds.


West Nile Virus is a single stranded RNA virus with a positive sense. This genome is close to 11,000 nucleotides long and is bound 5 and 3 inch non coding stem loop structures. The genome also codes three structural proteins and seven nonstructural proteins. This genome was first translated into a polyprotein but later cleaved by virus and host proteases into separate proteins.

Effect on Humans

Most individuals infected with West Nile Virus either don’t develop any symptoms or have mild ones such as headache, fever, or disorientation. However, 5% of people develop life-threatening illnesses such as inflammation of brain or spinal cord.


The West Nile Virus spreads through humans and animals through mosquitos. When a bird is infected, and the mosquito feeds on the bird the mosquito becomes infected. You can only get infected from the mosquito, but not from contact with another infected individual. Many West Nile Virus cases occur during warm weather, or when mosquitoes are active.


Here are a few different ways you can avoid contracting the West Nile Virus.

  • Unclog roof gutters.
  • Empty unused swimming pools or empty standing water on pool covers.
  • Change water in birdbaths and pet bowls regularly.
  • Remove old tires or unused containers that might hold water and serve as a breeding place for mosquitoes.

-Sanaa Dalvi

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