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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid