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 through 2012, which is much higher than previously reported.

From 1999 through 2012, there were 37,088 cases of West Nile virus reported to the CDC, medical epidemiologist J. Erin Staples, MD, PhD, and colleagues reported in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

During the study period 16,196 patients developed neurologic disease, including acute flaccid paralysis, encephalitis and meningitis, 18,313 were hospitalized and more than 1,529 died.

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The researchers examined the costs for 80 patients admitted to a Colorado hospital with West Nile virus, and extrapolated costs to the entire Unite States over the period since 1999. Those costs included medications, doctor visits and time missed from work or school.

Overall, the bulk of the cost — an estimated $448 million — comes from lost lifetime productivity of those who died from the illness, they determined. Hospital care for acute cases of West Nile virus accounted for $252 million, whereas long-term medical care and long-term lost productivity totaled $54 million.

Within the Colorado cohort, patients who developed accute flaccid paralysis were most expensive to treat, with median initial costs of $25,117 and median long-term costs of $22,628; followed by those with encephalitis at $20,105 and $8,055, respectively; and those with meningitis at $7,942 and $10,363, respectively. Median initial and long term costs for fever were $4,617 and $2,271.

“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. Many hospitalized patients will incur additional medical and indirect costs, and these need to be figured into the burden of [West Nile virus] disease,” Staples said in a press release. “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.”


  1. Staples JE et al. Am J Trop Med & Hygiene. 2014; doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.13-0206.