Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014's first case of West Nile virus reported in Miss.; since 1999 the disease has cost U.S. $800 million

The Mississippi State Department of Health has reported that 2014's first human case of West Nile virus in the U.S. has occurred in Hinds County, site of the state capital of Jackson. Last year 45 Mississippians contracted the illness, and five died; 247 had it in 2012, and five died. There may have been more; cases are only revealed to the public if they're laboratory-confirmed. State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs said the timing of the case is unexpected because of this season's intense winter weather, but it reminds people that the virus show up at any time, the Clarion Ledgerreports.
West Nile virus first appeared in the U.S. in 1999, and the disease has cost the U.S. about $800 million, according to a report in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Michaeleen Doucleff reports for NPR. (NPR graphic) Some victims suffer neurological problems such as seizures, coma, paralysis of limbs, swelling in the brain or spinal cord, and even death. Patients often face high costs of care and long recovery times, months or sometimes years.

"But the biggest economic cost of treating West Nile virus, by far, was decades of work lost when people died of the diease," Doucleff writes. Epidemiologist J. Erin Staples and her team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the deaths caused by West Nile cost the U.S. approximately $450 million since the first case in 1999, Doucleff reports. Staples said that "the purpose of the report was to give communities a sense of how much West Nile illnesses actually cost," Sherry Jacobson reports for the Dallas Morning News. "This will allow people to better assess the impact of the disease burden and to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of their prevention programs," she told Jacobson.

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