No treatment, no vaccine, and deadly: West Nile Virus poses great health concern in US

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Nov 17, 2016 02:54 AM EST

This transmission electron micrograph, TEM, revealed the presence of West Nile virus virions, in an isolate that was grown in a cell culture. West Nile virus, WNV, is a potentially serious illness. Experts believe WNV is established as a seasonal epidemi (Photo : Media for Medical / Contributor)

WHEELING, IL - JUNE 20: Lab assistant Amy Sebo drops mosquitoes into test tubes as she prepares them to be tested with the VecTest procedure for West Nile Virus, Saint Louis Encephalitis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and Antigen Panel Assay June 20, 2003 at the Northwest Mosquito Abatement District headquarters in Wheeling, Illinois. Illinois reported 884 cases and 64 deaths from the West Nile Virus last year, the highest amount in the nation. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
Restrictions (Photo : Tim Boyle / Staff)

The West Nile Virus has been a great health concern in US over the years, as it has no treatment or vaccine, and is notoriously deadly. Much has yet to be known about the disease, what with the little research being done to fight it. 

Sometimes referred to as WNV, the West Nile Virus is commonly transmitted to humans via mosquitoes. With no medications or vaccines yet available to cure and contain the spread of the virus, it remains a highly-threatening one. Moreover, the virus often doesn't manifest symptoms on infected persons - only around one out of five of them develop fever.  

First introduced in the US in 1999, the West Nile Virus has infected 45,000 people, with at least 2,000 of them being fatalities. In a new study published by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, it is suggested that the fatality rate of the virus may be much higher.

As per a statement posted in KXAN, Kristy O. Murray, DVM, PhD of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children Hospital, said, "For several years, we had followed several groups of patients and felt many had died prematurely" Dr. Murray also added, "We saw many people otherwise healthy until they had West Nile Virus and then their health went downhill."

Severe cases experienced by fatalities of the West Nile Virus have been caused by complications involving the central nervous system. Delayed deaths appeared to be most common in patients who suffered significant neurological complications during the acute phase of their illness. Patients who do survive the illness suffer worse in their later life.

According to Science Mag, the research looked at 4,144 West Nile Virus infections in Texas between 2002 and 2012. They found out that 286 people died in the early stage of the infection and 268 people had survived but eventually succumbed to the virus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recorded a 4% national fatality rate due to the virus between 1999 and 2015 - a part of which includes Texas' staggering 13% state-wide fatality rate.

Dr. Murray, being the principal author of the study, further explained that the long-term health problems caused by the virus is still unclear. Tests have shown that the virus simply lodges itself in the kidneys after the patient recovers, which in turn replicates and damages the organ. "Neurological symptoms may just be a marker for a particularly severe infection," Murray added.

As for now, researchers cannot rule out that those patients who have died earlier than expected have an underlying disease that might explain both their deaths, and why they fell ill with West Nile fever in the first place. Murray, with her research team, has urged that "We really need to push for a vaccine to fight the virus."

 

 

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