Health is regarded as one of the critical aspects affecting human life. In essence, health refers to an individual’s well-being. Notably, there are internal and external factors that affect the health status of an individual. This paper analyses the West Nile Virus (WNV) as one of the external factors that affect an individual’s health status.
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The name of the virus is derived from where it was first discovered. In this case, it was first detected in the West Nile district, Uganda during the late 1930s. This virus was first detected in birds. Nevertheless, the virus has been noted to affect human beings too (Craven & Roehrig, 2001; Murray, Ruktanonchai, Hesalroad, Fonken & Nolan, 2013). There is a need to enhance the understanding of the West Nile Virus, and how it affects people so that necessary measures can be taken to prevent its spread.
The effects of West Nile Virus on the body via various organ systems
As an external factor affecting human health, the West Nile Virus has several impacts on the body. These effects are particularly felt on the various organ systems in the human body. For example, the virus may cause numerous complications in the human body. This is quite common when the virus appears in its severe form. Some of the symptoms of the virus on individuals include seizures and headache.
Other symptoms include high fever, rigid neck, and misperception among others. This is an indication that the virus has a great impact on the vital body organs. Indeed, it has been noted that the WNV causes encephalitis. This refers to an infection in the brain. This virus can also lead to meningitis.
There is also evidence that the virus can lead to the swelling of the brain and the spinal cord. These are critical organs of the central nervous system. Therefore, the WNV can lead to serious neurological effects among the affected individuals. Furthermore, this virus can lead to permanent muscle weakness (Diamond, 2009).
The effects of West Nile Virus on the individual’s lifestyle
The West Nile Virus is known to affect the lifestyle of individuals in various ways. Therefore, people will have to adopt new lifestyles that are meant to keep mosquitoes at bay. Notably, the virus is spread through mosquito bites. Thus, it is essential for individuals to adopt a lifestyle that will minimize their exposure to the mosquitoes.
For example, when an individual stays indoors during dusk and dawn, it will prevent the individual from being exposed to mosquitoes. In this case, these are the hours when mosquitoes are very active (Diamond, 2009; Margulies, 2004). Individuals may also eat garlic to ward off mosquitoes. Garlic is often associated with health benefits. This is due to its antioxidant allicin, which adds taste and aroma to the garlic. It has also been proved that rubbing pure garlic oil on the skin may act as a repellent against mosquitoes.
However, the garlic oil has a strong and irritating smell even to humans. Those who consume alcohol may be forced to change their lifestyles as mosquitoes are attracted to those who have consumed alcohol. In this case, the alcohol users may have to quit their habit to avoid attracting mosquitoes in infested areas (Murray, et al., 2006).
There is also an argument that scented toiletries should be avoided to keep the mosquitoes off. In this regard, it has been argued that mosquitoes get attracted to strong scents. Therefore, using scented toiletries may leave the body with the smell hence attracting the mosquitoes.
The burning of a candle is another lifestyle change that is believed to keep off the mosquitoes. Therefore, it is believed that the smoke from the candle keeps the mosquitoes off (Murray, et al., 2006). Furthermore, individuals can turn to wearing things that cover their body parts to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
This includes wearing gloves or long sleeved shirts, trousers, and hats. This will help in covering the body parts that are likely to be exposed and bitten by mosquitoes. The intake of vitamin B-1can helps in keeping the mosquitoes off. It is believed that, when taken, this vitamin affects the body scent hence acting as a repellent to mosquitoes. It can be noted that the lifestyle changes are aimed at keeping the mosquitoes at bay (Murray, et al., 2010; Margulies, 2004).
The impact of West Nile Virus on society
The West Nile Virus has a great impact on individuals and society at large. The impact of the WNV on society is felt especially when the virus occurs in its severe form. In this case, the virus can lead to the death of society members. This is likely to increase the death rate among the society members.
Therefore, the society will be greatly affected as it will suffer the loss of productive members. This will have far-reaching consequences in both social and economic aspects. The WNV can also lead to changes in the lifestyle of society members to avoid the mosquito bites (Sfakianos, Hecht, and Babcock, 2009).
The use of chemicals to get rid of the mosquitoes may have side effects on the environment, which may affect the society in the long run. In this regard, the society may suffer the consequences of using chemicals to fight the WNV. The virus may affect the society greatly especially when the mosquito control is beyond their control. In this case, the community may decide to relocate to other areas that are not infested with the mosquitoes (Craven & Roehrig, 2001; Margulies, 2004). Therefore, the impact of the WNV cannot be ignored.
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Treatment and interventions currently used to control the West Nile Virus
Treatment and intervention strategies are critical in severe cases of the WNV infection. Nevertheless, it should be noted that there is no vaccine for the West Nile Virus (Sfakianos, Hecht, and Babcock, 2009).
It has been noted that most victims of the WNV recover without treatment. In this regard, over-the-counter drugs may be used to treat the symptoms of the infection. Great caution has to be taken when using aspirin in treating WNV infection among children. In this case, aspirin may cause Reyes syndrome in children suffering from other conditions such as chicken pox and flu among others.
However, individuals who are severely affected should be hospitalized to reduce the adverse implication in severe cases. Those infected can be given assistance in breathing and intravenous fluids, as well as the necessary care to manage the virus (Nash, et al, 2001). As noted, WNV can cause meningitis and encephalitis.
These conditions do not have a direct cure. However, supportive therapy can be applied to ensure that the patient does not contract other infections. There have been suggestions that interferon therapy can be used to treat encephalitis (Murray et al., 2006). However, intense research should be carried out to verify this assertion.
Apart from the treatment strategies, the best way to control the WNV infection is to ensure that mosquitoes are kept at bay. Vector control is also critical as it will ensure that the risk of getting infected is minimized. In addition, awareness about the WNV should be carried out to inform the public about the virus and how it can be avoided. Furthermore, health care workers should be careful when handling patients infected with the WNV to avoid getting infected (Murray, et al., 2010).
The West Nile Virus can be regarded as an external factor with the potential of affecting human health. Although the virus may be detrimental to an insignificant portion of the population, its severe effects cannot be cured. In this case, understanding of the West Nile Virus and its effects on human health is critical as it will help in developing the necessary measures to prevent its spread. As has been noted, there is no vaccine for the West Nile Virus infection.
Thus, further research should be undertaken towards the discovery of the vaccine. However, in the meantime, there should be efforts aimed at preventing the spread of this virus. People living in the affected areas should adopt the necessary lifestyles to curb the virus. As has been observed, the lifestyle changes should be centered on how to avoid exposure to mosquitoes in the affected areas. In extreme cases, people living in the affected areas should be relocated to safe places.
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