News / Africa

West Nile Virus Costs US $780 Million

Mosquitoes are sorted at the Dallas County mosquito lab in Dallas, Aug. 16, 2012.
Mosquitoes are sorted at the Dallas County mosquito lab in Dallas, Aug. 16, 2012.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
It’s been 14 years since West Nile Virus disease arrived in the United States. A new study says the disease has cost about $780 million in health care costs and lost productivity.


Before 1999, West Nile Virus had not been detected outside the Eastern Hemisphere. That changed following reports in the U.S. of serious infections and deaths.

Dr. Erin Staples is a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and the lead author of the study, which appears in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. She said the virus is carried by infected mosquitoes.

“Once people get bitten and infected by the virus a fair proportion will actually not develop any symptoms. But a proportion will go on to develop either a febrile illness with muscle aches and feeling generally unwell. And in a small proportion of people that get infected – they’ll go on to develop kind of a more severe presentation or clinical manifestations, which include what we call neuro-invasive disease. That means infections of the nervous system,” she said.

These include encephalitis, meningitis and acute flaccid paralysis, where part or all of the body is paralyzed.

She said, “Anybody can be infected by West Nile Virus – anybody that’s going outdoors – potentially getting exposed to mosquitoes – can get infected. But we tend to see kind of the more severe manifestation in people that are older than the age of 50. Otherwise, we’ve seen that some people with underlying medical conditions also might be at more risk for being hospitalized if they do get West Nile Virus infection and disease – as well as they’re more likely to potentially die due to the infection.”

From its arrival through 2012, there have been more than 37,000 cases of West Nile Virus in the United States.

“Following its introduction into the United States in 1999, it started in the Northeast and then spread across the country. So by 2003 we had seen West Nile Virus disease occur from coast to coast. And then since that time, we are considering it – what we call – an endemic disease, meaning that it will continue to occur,” said Staples.

Of the more than 37,000 cases, over 1,500 patients died. About 16,000 patients had neurologic disease and over 18,000 required hospitalization.

“However,” Staples said, “we do expect that that is an underestimate of the number of people infected, as well as the number of people that might have gotten sick. And some of that is due to the fact that not everybody that gets sick will actually choose to go to the doctor and be seen for their symptoms, particularly, maybe the less severe manifestations or the fever with muscle aches.”

There is a test for West Nile virus, usually using a blood sample or cerebral spinal fluid or the fluid around the brain. This may be done when patients show symptoms of neurological problems.

Dr. Staples said that besides the health concerns, it’s also important to know the effects of the nearly $780 million cost of the disease.

“The reason we really wanted to do that is to allow different organizations – whether it be policymakers, public health or researchers in both academia and industry – to better assess and understand the impact West Nile Virus is having on them. Not only from the morbidity, the number of cases and the mortality, but also from the economic perspective.”

Little is known about the long-term effects of West Nile Virus disease. There are no medications to treat it and no vaccines to prevent it. Medical care can be expensive -- tens of thousands of dollars, for example, for those who suffer from partial or whole body paralysis. The study said patients who were hospitalized “were absent from work or school for a median 42 days.”

The CDC epidemiologist said, “National surveillance efforts are critical in determining where and when outbreaks of mosquito or tick-borne diseases occur.”

That allows health officials to react quickly and empty standing water areas where mosquitoes might breed or begin community insecticide spraying. Using insect repellent can also help.

The World Health Organization says the disease was first discovered in 1937 in the West Nile District of Uganda.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid