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The costs of WNV

Published: Monday, March 3, 2014 2:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 3, 2014 3:00 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — Mosquitoes are not only annoying, they can also be costly ... especially if they carry the West Nile Virus.

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the West Nile Virus (WNV) has cost the United States about $780 million in health care costs and lost productivity,

There have been more than 37,000 WNV cases in the United States since its arrival in 1999 through 2012. Of those cases, more than 18,000 people required hospitalization, and more than 1,500 patients died. The numbers of infected people are probably underestimated because not everybody will actually go to the doctor and be seen for their symptoms, the study states.

As far as local surveillance costs for WNV, the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department’s Director of Health Protection Kurt Kuchle said the county spends whatever amount of grant money it receives each year for surveillance work. Locally, that grant money has ranged from $1,000 for Putnam County and $4,000 for Bureau County in 2007 to $14,000 for Bureau County and $11,000 for Putnam County in 2013.

Though he was not sure of the grant amounts received by the health department since WNV hit Illinois in 2002, Kuchle said the grants are all used for staff salaries, mileage, equipment and occasionally an intern.

Looking at the history of local WNV surveillance, Kuchle said the state started to test birds for WNV in 2001, and the local health department started its surveillance of birds and mosquitoes in 2003 and has continued to do so.

According to Illinois Department of Public Health statistics, Illinois has had slightly more than 2,000 human cases since 1999. Going back to 2007, Kuchle said the local health department recorded one human case in 2007 in Bureau County and one human case in 2008 in Putnam County.

Looking ahead to the coming WNV season and the potential impact of this winter’s unusually cold winter, Kuchle said the extreme cold will have some effect on the over-wintering survival rates for mosquitoes. However once the weather warms up to normal spring and summer conditions, the numbers will recover quickly, but a cold wet spring and early summer will slow the process, he said.

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