West Nile a particular threat for those with HIV

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com September 10 2002 11:00 PM ET

HIV/AIDS patients, people with diabetes, those undergoing chemotherapy, and steroid users are more likely to get seriously ill or die if they become infected with the West Nile virus, say Mississippi health experts. William Causey, an infectious disease specialist in Jackson, Miss., said that while these people are not at a higher risk for infection with the virus, their immune systems are less able to fight off the disease if they do get the mosquito-transmitted virus. People with AIDS complications are the most likely to become seriously ill or die from West Nile infection because of their compromised immune systems, Causey said.

He recommends that vulnerable groups follow the same advice as everyone else in avoiding mosquito bites--stay indoors during dawn, dusk, and early-evening hours when mosquito activity is the highest, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and apply mosquito repellent containing DEET.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed human West Nile infections in 30 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia. The infection typically causes few or no symptoms, but a small number of people develop either meningitis or encephalitis. The warning signs for these conditions include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, muscle weakness, and paralysis.