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May 28, 2015  
EDUCATION CENTER: Clinical Overview

Clinical Overview
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  • West Nile Virus

    Clinical Overview
    Reviewed by Dr. James Whynot

    Although international scientists originally identified West Nile Virus about 70 years ago in East Africa, the infection and its consequences were of little concern to medical scientists in North American until quite recently. Today, however, the infection is getting plenty of well-warranted notoriety due to the growing incidence and the health consequences of the virus’ transatlantic migration to the U.S.

    The most recent statistics released from the CDC indicate that incidence of West Nile virus infections grew from 62 diagnosed cases in 1999 to 4,156 cases in 2002, accounting for 284 deaths in the U.S. Additionally, the virus is spreading geographically as well as demographically. First identified in the U.S. in the New York City area, the West Nile virus has now been documented in 42 states, with approximately 20 percent of infected victims experiencing at least some form of physical reaction.

    Risk factors for developing a serious form of the West Nile virus include conditions and therapies that suppress your immune system such as:

  • Recent chemotherapy treatments
  • A recent organ transplant
  • An HIV infection
  • Age 50 years or older

    In a very small number of cases, the West Nile virus has spread from through blood transfusions, organ transplant recipients, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby. However, with the recent requirement for blood banks to routinely screen donated blood for the virus, the risk of spreading of the virus via transfused blood should greatly reduced, according to Dr. Julie Gerberding, the director of the CDC.

    Additionally, there is no risk of spreading or contracting the virus through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.

    Last updated: Feb-23-07

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