Published On: Tue, Feb 11th, 2014

West Nile virus has cost the US $778 million in health care expenditures and lost productivity since 1999: Study

In a study of the economic impact of West Nile virus (WNV) in the United States, a research team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the 14 years since the virus was first detected in New York, hospitalized cases of WNV disease have cost a cumulative $778 million in health care expenditures and lost productivity. The findings are the result of an analysis published online Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH).

photo 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

photo 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

West Nile virus became a familiar phrase to Americans in 1999 when news reports of serious infection and deaths from the virus first emerged. Until then, West Nile virus—which is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito—had not been detected outside of the Eastern Hemisphere. Annual outbreaks have continued to occur across the United States, such as the large outbreak in Dallas in 2012. Over 37,000 WNV disease cases have been reported to CDC since 1999, and this number likely underestimates the total number of infections that occurred in the United States.

About 1 in 5 people who are infected with the virus will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache and joint pains, but about one in 150 of those infected develop a serious nervous system illness such as encephalitis or meningitis that typically requires hospitalization.

Little is known about the longer-term health needs of individuals affected by WNV disease or the economic cost of the disease to the nation. The study looked at the costs of initial hospitalization of WNV patients and long-term direct and indirect costs in the five years following their hospitalization—from follow-up doctor visits and medications to how much job or school time was missed.

Read the rest of the ASTMH press release


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