Testing for West Nile virus (WNV) is underutilized in areas where the disease is endemic, according to Jakapat Vanichanan, MD, and his associates.

In a sample of 751 patients admitted to Houston hospitals for meningitis or encephalitis, 390 patients experienced onset of symptoms during the WNV peak season between June and October, but only 281 of the 751 patients received WNV testing. Of the 281 patients tested for WNV, 32 were diagnosed with acute infection.

Patients tested for WNV were more likely to have acute focal neurologic deficits, be of older age, require an MRI, be prescribed antiviral therapy, have worse clinical outcomes, and experience concomitant testing for mycobacterial, fungal, or other viral infections. Of the 32 patients diagnosed with WNV, 16 were admitted with meningitis and 16 were admitted with encephalitis.

“Although supportive treatment remains the standard of care for patients with WNND [West Nile neuroinvasive diseases], performing appropriate WNV testing may yield several benefits. An accurate diagnosis more precisely defines disease burden and epidemiology, an ongoing surveillance deficiency. Moreover, identifying WNV may lead to early detection of long-term neurologic and neurocognitive sequelae after WNND and thus enable earlier intervention,” the investigators said.

Find the full study in Emerging Infectious Diseases ( doi: 10.3201/eid2209.152050 ).


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