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West Nile Virus Cost U.S. Almost $800 Million

Update Date: Feb 11, 2014 10:15 AM EST

A new report conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that from 1999 to 2012, the country spent $778 million for any medical care expenses relate to the West Nile virus. The CDC calculated that the average annual costs were around $56 million, which is a lot higher than what researchers estimated previously.

"We believe that previous costs associated with West Nile virus disease have been underestimated because they've predominantly focused on the costs of the initial illness," study lead author Dr. J. Erin Staples, a CDC medical epidemiologist, reported by Philly.

"Many hospitalized patients will incur additional medical and indirect costs, and these need to be figured into the burden of [West Nile virus] disease. 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."

In this new study, the researchers analyzed the costs of initial hospitalization for 80 patients. The team also tracked the long-term direct and indirect costs that these patients had to deal with for five years. These costs included doctor visits, medications and missed work or school days. The researches found that for people who were hospitalized, they were forced to skip an average of 42 days of work or school.

In a previous report, the researchers examined over 37,000 cases of the West Nile virus. The cases were reported to the CDC during that 14-year time frame. The team found that there were more than 16,000 cases of developed neurologic disease and more than 18,000 hospitalizations. 1,500 people ended up dying from the virus. Roughly one in five people who get infected with the virus have symptoms such as fever, headache and joint pain. Around one out of 150 infected cases turn into a serious neurologic condition such as encephalitis or meningitis.

"As we all strive for the most efficient and effective use of scarce resources, studies like this offer decision makers facts that will help them make sound funding and policy decisions," Dr. Alan Magill, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, said according to CBS News.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

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