“Many hospitalized patients will incur additional medical and indirect costs, and these need to be figured into the burden of WNV disease,” study lead author Dr. J. Erin Staples, a CDC epidemiologist, said in a written release. “Only with accurate figures can public health, academic and industry officials determine the cost effectiveness of local mosquito control measures or of developing new drugs and vaccines.”
Roughly 37,000 cases of West Nile virus have been reported to the CDC between 1999 and 2012, resulting in more than 18,000 hospitalizations and 1,500 deaths, according to the study.
While about 80% of those infected with West Nile end up developing no symptoms, about one in five develop fever and other symptoms that include headache and joint pains. About one in 150 of those infected develop more severe complications, such as encephalitis, meningitis or paralysis, usually requiring hospitalization. Researchers studied 80 West Nile cases during a five-year period after a 2003 disease outbreak in Colorado.
They found that short- and long-term costs depended on the type of complications that developed. Patients with paralysis had the largest initial and long-term medical expenses, at an average cost of $25,000. Patients with meningitis typically had shorter hospital stays and had an average care cost of $7,500.
West Nile virus, passed to humans through infected mosquitoes, was first detected in New York City and spread across the entire country in less than five years. Prevention remains the only protection from the disease. No vaccine is available, according to the CDC.
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