The West Nile virus, which is known to be a major killer that is gravely impacting societies in Africa and Third World countries, has been called “substantially underestimated” in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not only is the West Nile virus a dangerous virus to contract, but it is also costing Americans $56 million a year.
The West Nile virus is also using up a substantial part of our economy and the funds we spend on health care. A team of researchers who visited hospitals and researched other forms of treatment has concluded that we as a nation have spent $778 million in the last 14 years, coming out to $56 million annually, as a result of the West Nile virus. Fourteen years ago was the moment when the disease was first detected in the United States. Since then, every year we devote more time and money trying to contain the virus, which is largely believed to only be a threat in Third World countries.
The researchers say that with hospital visits, loss of productivity due to observance of patients with the West Nile virus and follow-up visits, this specific disease has an entirely heavier impact on Americans and our country than we would normally expect.
The West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes, and seasonal outbreaks are generally expected every year. Symptoms include meningitis, fever, encephalitis, and can even trigger paralysis. The United States has recorded 37,000 cases of West Nile virus, and has also observed 1,500 deaths since 1999. There are currently no vaccines available to fight this virus.
Although this information should trigger awareness of West Nile virus, Americans should know that compared to other diseases, this one is merely a drop in the pan. If influenza were measured for the same costs as this virus, it would be at an estimated $90 billion dollars per year compared with $56 million a year for the virus.
The researchers said in their report on the West Nile virus that “The figures for economic burden reported in this paper will aid policy makers and pharmacists to assess the economics of vaccine and drug development.” It is widely speculated that real change and drug development only come to high-profile cases in today’s health care system so perhaps the economic findings are an important step that could lead to real change and help thousands of Americans.
In more West Nile virus news, a “two-faced” protein is currently being studied for what are believed to be new breakthroughs in the treatment of the disease and development of the drug. Researchers believe that with the help of this protein, they have learned how the virus can replicate and spread so quickly.
In addition to vaccine research, the new study on the exorbitant amount of money devoted to the West Nile virus will hopefully raise its image in the public eye. Perhaps now the virus will not only be thought of as one that impacts Third World countries, but also one that has begun to grow in the United States. Americans may finally learn that the West Nile virus is not only a dangerous disease, but also one which affects their healthcare system with an expense of $56 million a year.
By Nick Manai