West Nile Virus may be more deadly than previously thought

There is no treatment for West Nile Virus

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — While West Nile Virus has been a health concern for years, there’s still a lot unknown about the disease. There’s still no treatment, no vaccine and little research on the long-term effects of the disease.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have been studying the virus for years, and have uncovered a frightening trend. They followed patients in the months and years after they contracted the disease and found it can continue causing dangerous health problems, like kidney disease.

“For several years, we had followed smaller groups of patients and felt that many had died prematurely,” said Kristy O. Murray, DVM, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. “We saw many people who were otherwise healthy until they had West Nile virus — and then their health just went downhill.”

Murray, the principal author of the study, says the delayed deaths appear to be more common in patients who had suffered significant neurological complications during the acute phase of their illness.

Researchers looked at 4,144 West Nile virus (WNV) infections in Texas between 2002 and 2012 and found 286 people died in the early phase of the virus. Another 268 people survived the infection, but subsequently died due to the virus. In total, they attribute 13 percent of deaths to WNV, much higher than the 4 percent national fatality rate for WNV recorded between 1999 and 2015 by the CDC.

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