Head: Dr Alison Kesson
Telephone: 9845 3823
Fax: 9845 3291
See also: Virology in the Hospital's Directory of Services.
We investigate a group of viruses called Flaviviridae - specifically the West Nile virus. West Nile virus, which can cause encephalitis, is transmitted by mosquitoes. Our research is aimed at elucidating the mechanism by which the virus induces a host response with the view to developing ways to minimise the immune response.
West Nile virus is an 'emerging' virus worldwide and below are some commonly asked questions adapted from the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention website:
Q. What is West Nile encephalitis?
A. "Encephalitis" means an inflammation of the brain and can be caused by viruses and bacteria, including viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. West Nile encephalitis is an infection of the brain caused by West Nile virus, a flavivirus commonly found in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East. It is closely related to St. Louis encephalitis virus found in the United States.
Q. How do people get West Nile encephalitis?
A. By the bite of mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus.
Q. Can you get West Nile encephalitis from another person?
A. No. West Nile encephalitis is not transmitted from person-to-person. For example, you cannot get West Nile virus from touching or kissing a person who has the disease, or from a health care worker who has treated someone with the disease.
Q. How does West Nile virus actually cause severe illness and death in humans?
A. Following transmission by an infected mosquito, West Nile virus multiplies in the person's blood system and crosses the blood-brain barrier to reach the brain. The virus interferes with normal central nervous system functioning and causes inflammation of brain tissue.
Q. How is West Nile encephalitis treated?
A. There is no specific therapy. In more severe cases, intensive supportive therapy is indicated, often involving hospitalization, intravenous fluids, airway management, respiratory support (ventilator), prevention of secondary infections (pneumonia, urinary tract, etc.), and good nursing care.
This document was published on Thursday, 21 February 2002