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West Nile Virus Antibody (Blood)

Does this test have other names?


What is this test?

This blood test checks for antibodies that develop when you have the West Nile virus (WNV). This is a viral infection that usually affects birds. The virus spreads when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a human. An infected pregnant person may pass the virus along to the fetus during pregnancy or to the baby during breastfeeding. Some people may get the virus from infected blood or organs.

WNV is most common during the summer and fall. About 4 in 5 people with the infection don't have any symptoms. But the WNV can cause:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Body aches

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Skin rash

Other symptoms, which are rare, include:

  • Muscle weakness

  • Vision loss

  • Stiff neck and headache

  • High fever

  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Tremors or convulsions

  • Coma

  • Paralysis

  • Numbness

If you're infected with WNV, your immune system makes antibodies against it. These antibodies are designed to destroy the virus. The WNV antibody test looks for these antibodies in your blood. If you have them, it means you have an infection. 

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if your healthcare provider suspects that you have WNV because:

  • You have been bitten by a mosquito.

  • You show symptoms of WNV.

  • You have touched a dead bird.

You may also need to be tested if you show symptoms of the virus after getting a blood transfusion or donated organ. Nursing or pregnant women may need the test if their healthcare provider suspects they may have WNV.

Most people don't need treatment for WNV. Only those with very serious symptoms need treatment. 

What other tests might I have along with this test?

The WNV test usually is done with a blood sample. People with severe symptoms may also need to have a sample of cerebrospinal fluid or a small sample of body tissue tested.

What do my test results mean?

Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, and other things. Your test results may be different depending on the lab used. They may not mean you have a problem. Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.

How is this test done?

The test is done with a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm. 

Does this test pose any risks?

Having a blood test with a needle carries some risks. These include bleeding, infection, bruising, and feeling lightheaded. When the needle pricks your arm or hand, you may feel a slight sting or pain. Afterward, the site may be sore. 

What might affect my test results?

Getting the test too soon after infection may affect your results. For best results, the test should be done at least a week after you suspect infection. If the antibodies haven't had time to show up in your blood, test results may be negative even if you have WNV.

Diet, medicines, and lifestyle habits should not affect the results of the test.

How do I get ready for this test?

A blood test rarely needs any preparation. Always check with your healthcare provider. Be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you take. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illegal drugs you may use. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Chad Haldeman-Englert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2022
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.