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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid