'Survivor' Star Lisa Whelchel Has West Nile Virus: How to Spot the Signs

lisa whelchelYou'd think Survivor: Philippines and former Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel would have been through enough this year after wrapping the reality show back in April. But no. Now she's got to face a scary health challenge: West Nile virus. Whelchel recently wrote on Twitter: "Dr. just called with the blood test results ... I have West Nile. Ugh. I'm fine, just tired. Takes a year to recover." Bummmmer.

Although you may immediately jump to the conclusion that she picked up the virus while shooting Survivor, that actually, eerily may not be the case. Although the disease is spread by mosquitoes, there is no concrete proof that her diagnosis has anything to do with her time in the Philippines. With almost 4,000 cases in the U.S. this year, it seems like West Nile isn't a bizarro foreign virus you only get while going overseas anymore. That said, it doesn't seem like a bad idea for us to be aware of the signs and symptoms ... 


The primary symptoms include fatigue and body aches. But the virus can also cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, headache, lack of appetite, muscle aches, nausea, rash, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and vomiting for up to six days -- and even as long as a month in some cases. Of course these are all kind of vague symptoms that could indicate a wide variety of issues, so it's important to see your doc, because ...

Doctors are able to most accurately diagnose the virus with a serology test, which checks a blood or CSF sample for antibodies against the virus. Sounds like that's how Whelchel's doc was able to tell she was infected. And once you are diagnosed, the good -- or bad, depending on how you want to see it, I guess -- news is that there's no "treatment" per se for West Nile ... According to Mayo Clinic, most people recover from West Nile virus without treatment. Sufferers often take pain relievers to help ease mild headaches and muscle aches.

With hope, Whelchel's recovery will be a safe and speedy one. And fingers crossed doctors and researchers are seriously looking into ways to minimize the spread of this unnerving virus.

Do you find Lisa Whelchel's diagnosis unnerving?


Image via CBS

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