Researchers: West Nile virus can impact long-term health

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by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

KMOV.com

Posted on August 21, 2012 at 11:42 AM

HOUSTON – Researchers now say people that people who have suffered from the West Nile virus will likely carry its effects with them for life.

“Sixty-to-70 percent of those individuals are going to have long-term effects such as paralysis, memory loss, weakness, being off balance, vision problems, and things like that,” said Dr. Kristy Murray, associate professor of pediatrics at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Murray has been studying the impact of West Nile her entire career.  Over the decade since West Nile first showed up in Houston she has followed a group of patients.

Most recently she found a significant increase in kidney disease in the patients, which developed years after the West Nile Virus was contracted.

Researchers said the total number of West Nile cases can really only be estimated. That’s because as many as 80-percent of the people who have had West Nile don’t even know it, and they too may be more susceptible to complications.

The disease itself isn’t going anywhere. The explosion of West Nile virus in the Dallas area is the worst Texas has ever seen. Here in Houston there are no records being set but we have plenty of experience with the virus that first showed up here in 2002.

“We are going to have some years where the conditions are just perfect, and all the cards are aligned where we get a big outbreak occurring,” Murray said. “We are actually just about to hit our peak. The middle of August is typically when we see the cases really coming in, so over the next month is when we are going to see the most cases occur.”

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