West Nile virus infection

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Abstract

Purpose.

The epidemiology, virology, and transmission of West Nile virus (WNV) are reviewed, and the clinical features, diagnosis, and treatment of WNV infection are examined.

Summary.

WNV infection is caused by a flavivirus transmitted from birds to humans through the bite of culicine mosquitoes. WNV was discovered in the blood of a febrile woman from Uganda's West Nile province in 1937. The first case of domestically acquired WNV infection was reported in the United States in 1999 in New York. Since then, WNV infection has spread rapidly across the United States, with 9306 confirmed cases and 210 deaths reported from 45 states in 2003. It is still not clear how WNV was introduced into North America. WNV is a small, single-stranded RNA virus and a member of the Japanese encephalitis virus antigenic complex. While most humans infected with WNV are asymptomatic, some may develop an influenza-like illness. Disease surveillance remains the cornerstone for the early recognition and control of WNV. We describe one case of WNV infection with an update on the disease. Strategies for the prevention and control of this infection are reviewed.

Conclusion.

There is no established treatment for WNV infection. Currently, prevention and control are the only measures that help decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with WNV infection. As the number of cases escalates and the geographic distribution of WNV infection widens, the epidemic will continue to pose a major challenge to clinicians in the coming years. There is an urgent need for more research on the pathogenesis and treatment of WNV infection.

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