Leslie Robinson, MD


Clinical Observations on West Nile Virus Infections

September 01, 2008

In 2004, 391 cases of West Nile virus (WNV) infection werereported in Arizona. This represented an epidemic thatchallenged area clinicians. We treated 34 patients with WNVinfection and reviewed their medical records. They werehospitalized at 3 community hospitals during the epidemic.These patients represented 9% of all WNV infection casesreported in Arizona. Meningitis was diagnosed in 13 patients,encephalitis in 12, fever of unknown origin in 5, transversemyelitis in 3, and carditis in 1. Respiratory failure requiringmechanical ventilation developed in 6 patients. Five of thesickest patients were empirically treated with interferon alfa 2band ribavirin. The epidemic and associated clinical challengesprompted evaluation of the available diagnostic and treatmentstrategies to optimize care of very ill patients. The consensusamong clinicians was that they were poorly prepared todiagnose and treat WNV infection in hospitalized patients.All patients survived hospitalization, although 4 patientsdied after discharge because of factors attributable to WNVinfection. [Infect Med. 2008;25:430-434]