(HealthDay News) — West Nile virus-related hospitalizations and follow-up in the United States cost $778 million in health care expenses and lost productivity from 1999–2012, which is much higher than previously reported, according to a new study published online February 10 in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
The researchers examined more than 37,000 cases of West Nile virus reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999–2012. They found that more than 16,000 patients developed neurologic disease, more than 18,000 were hospitalized, and more than 1,500 died.
For the new study, researchers examined the costs of initial hospitalization of 80 patients and the long-term direct and indirect costs over the next five years. Those costs included medications, doctor visits, and time missed from work or school.
“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 J. Erin Staples, MD, PhD, a CDC medical epidemiologist, said in a statement. “Many hospitalized patients will incur additional medical and indirect costs, and these need to be figured into the burden of [West Nile virus] disease,” she said. “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.”