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West Nile Virus: How It's Similar And Different From COVID-19

Mosquitoes pick up the virus from infected birds and can then transfer it to humans.

As the coronavirus surge continues, there’s another virus to watch for now: West Nile. Dallas County’s already spraying for the mosquito-borne disease and a number of its symptoms are similar to COVID-19.

KERA’s Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. Carolee Estelle, interim chief of Infection Prevention with Parkland Health & Hospital System, and an assistant professor of Internal Medicine in the Infectious Diseases Division of UT Southwestern Medical Center.


Symptoms Similar To West Nile Virus And COVID-19

  • A lot of viruses tend to cause fevers, which you can see in both. Feeling really tired and fatigued. Headache and body aches.
  • West Nile neuro-invasive disease can affect the brain and the spinal cord. When that happens, you can get much higher fevers, neck stiffness, muscle weakness and even more severe things like confusion, coma, tremors. The severe form can lead to death in some cases.
  • The incubation period is about two to 14 days — the time it takes from exposure to the virus to getting infection and symptoms from it.

What Symptom Separates The Two Viruses?

Headache is probably more predominant in West Nile than COVID. But the real distinguishing factor, from a symptom standpoint, between COVID-19 and West Nile virus is seen in the more severe form — the neuro-invasive disease — where you get really severe neurologic symptoms that we don't typically see in COVID.

The reality is that one would need to be tested to know truly.

Also When It Comes To West Nile Virus:

  • 80% of people will not know that they have gotten the virus.
  • 20% will have really mild symptoms.
  • Less than 1% will be the ones who get the really severe version of the disease.

Steps To Guard Against West Nile Virus:

  • Prevent mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves, loose clothing and using bug repellent containing DEET.
  • Get rid of any standing water in the area. It really attracts those mosquitoes.
  • Wear long clothing and mosquito repellent especially at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.


Curious Texas: West Nile and COVID -19

CDC: West Nile Virus

Johns Hopkins Medicine: West Nile Virus

Dallas County Health & Human Services

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.