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West Nile Virus cases analyzed for prevalence and symptoms

HONOLULU, HI Researchers from Chicago have identified focal neurological deficits as a major group of presenting symptoms among patients with West Nile Virus infection, which became epidemic in the United States in 2002. Focal neurological deficits included visual loss, muscle weakness, paralysis of one half of the body, abnormally slow movement, tremor with rigidity, numbness or tingling and unstable gait. Findings of their study are being presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Honolulu, March 29-April 5, 2003.

West Nile Fever, generally transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, is usually a relatively mild infection. It is estimated that about 20 percent of those infected will develop West Nile Fever, characterized by mild, flu-like symptoms, a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph nodes. West Nile fever typically lasts only a few days and does not appear to cause any long-term health effects.

The more severe form of the disease is the West Nile encephalitis or meningitis, characterized by high fevers, headache, stiff neck, disorientation, seizures, coma and focal neurological deficits. The death rate among West Nile virus infection cases from the summer of 2002 was 5 to 6 percent according to the latest Center for Disease Control reports.

Illinois experienced a higher incidence of West Nile Virus infection cases than any other state: 836, or 20 percent of all U.S. cases reported by January 2003. To aid in diagnosis and treatment, researchers from three Chicago area medical centers were interested to know more about presenting symptoms. Detailed analysis of 28 cases from three hospitals between the months of August through October of 2002, revealed that more than half (54 percent) of their patients exhibited a neurological symptom that mimicked other neurological diseases such as stroke, Parkinson's, Bells' palsy, polio and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The remainder of their cas
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Contact: Marilee Reu
mreu@aan.com
651-695-2789
American Academy of Neurology
31-Mar-2003


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