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Carrier and Transmission

How Does West Nile Virus Spread? 

Most often, West Nile is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes are carriers that become infected when they feed on infected birds. The virus eventually gets into the mosquito's salivary glands. During later blood meals (when mosquitoes bite), the virus may be injected into humans and animals, where it can multiply and possibly cause illness.


People typically get infected with West Nile virus through the bite of an infected mosquito.  Additional routes of human infection became apparent during the 2002 West Nile epidemic. It is important to note that these other methods of transmission represent a very small proportion of cases. Although transmission to laboratory workers is not a new phenomenon, two recent cases of WNV infection of laboratory workers have been reported. West Nile virus is not spread through forms of casual contact, like kissing or touching an infected person. However, if you do come across dead birds, who are carriers of West Nile virus, do not attempt to handle them with your bare hands. Protect yourself by calling your local health department for instructions on reporting and disposal of the animal.

What Is The Risk Of Getting Sick? 

  • People over 50 are at greater risk of getting the virus due to weaker immune systems. Most often the elderly exibit more severe symptoms and have higher rates of mortality.
  • Being outside means being at risk. The longer you are outdoors, working or playing, the greater your chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • The risk of getting West Nile from medical procedures is very low. There is also little scientific evidence of unborn or breastfeeding children contracting West Nile from their mothers. 
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