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      Transmission of West Nile Virus through Blood Transfusion in the United States in 2002

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          Abstract

          During the 2002 West Nile virus epidemic in the United States, patients were identified whose West Nile virus illness was temporally associated with the receipt of transfused blood and blood components. Patients with laboratory evidence of recent West Nile virus infection within four weeks after receipt of a blood component from a donor with viremia were considered to have a confirmed transfusion-related infection. We interviewed the donors of these components, asking them whether they had had symptoms compatible with the presence of a viral illness before or after their donation; blood specimens retained from the time of donation and collected at follow-up were tested for West Nile virus. Twenty-three patients were confirmed to have acquired West Nile virus through transfused leukoreduced and nonleukoreduced red cells, platelets, or fresh-frozen plasma. Of the 23 recipients, 10 (43 percent) were immunocompromised owing to transplantation or cancer and 8 (35 percent) were at least 70 years of age. Immunocompromised recipients tended to have longer incubation periods than nonimmunocompromised recipients and infected persons in mosquito-borne community outbreaks. Sixteen donors with evidence of viremia at donation were linked to the 23 infected recipients; of these donors, 9 reported viral symptoms before or after donation, 5 were asymptomatic, and 2 were lost to follow-up. Fever, new rash, and painful eyes were independently associated with being an implicated donor with viremia rather than a donor without viremia. All 16 donors were negative for West Nile virus-specific IgM antibody at donation. Transfused red cells, platelets, and fresh-frozen plasma can transmit West Nile virus. Screening of potential donors with the use of nucleic acid-based assays for West Nile virus may reduce this risk. Copyright 2003 Massachusetts Medical Society

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          Most cited references 12

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          The outbreak of West Nile virus infection in the New York City area in 1999.

          In late August 1999, an unusual cluster of cases of meningoencephalitis associated with muscle weakness was reported to the New York City Department of Health. The initial epidemiologic and environmental investigations suggested an arboviral cause. Active surveillance was implemented to identify patients hospitalized with viral encephalitis and meningitis. Cerebrospinal fluid, serum, and tissue specimens from patients with suspected cases underwent serologic and viral testing for evidence of arboviral infection. Outbreak surveillance identified 59 patients who were hospitalized with West Nile virus infection in the New York City area during August and September of 1999. The median age of these patients was 71 years (range, 5 to 95). The overall attack rate of clinical West Nile virus infection was at least 6.5 cases per million population, and it increased sharply with age. Most of the patients (63 percent) had clinical signs of encephalitis; seven patients died (12 percent). Muscle weakness was documented in 27 percent of the patients and flaccid paralysis in 10 percent; in all of the latter, nerve conduction studies indicated an axonal polyneuropathy in 14 percent. An age of 75 years or older was an independent risk factor for death (relative risk adjusted for the presence or absence of diabetes mellitus, 8.5; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.2 to 59.1), as was the presence of diabetes mellitus (age-adjusted relative risk, 5.1; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.5 to 17.3). This outbreak of West Nile meningoencephalitis in the New York City metropolitan area represents the first time this virus has been detected in the Western Hemisphere. Given the subsequent rapid spread of the virus, physicians along the eastern seaboard of the United States should consider West Nile virus infection in the differential diagnosis of encephalitis and viral meningitis during the summer months, especially in older patients and in those with muscle weakness.
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            Rapid detection of west nile virus from human clinical specimens, field-collected mosquitoes, and avian samples by a TaqMan reverse transcriptase-PCR assay.

            The authors report on the development and application of a rapid TaqMan assay for the detection of West Nile (WN) virus in a variety of human clinical specimens and field-collected specimens. Oligonucleotide primers and FAM- and TAMRA-labeled WN virus-specific probes were designed by using the nucleotide sequence of the New York 1999 WN virus isolate. The TaqMan assay was compared to a traditional reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR assay and to virus isolation in Vero cells with a large number ( approximately 500) of specimens obtained from humans (serum, cerebrospinal fluid, and brain tissue), field-collected mosquitoes, and avian tissue samples. The TaqMan assay was specific for WN virus and demonstrated a greater sensitivity than the traditional RT-PCR method and correctly identified WN virus in 100% of the culture-positive mosquito pools and 98% of the culture-positive avian tissue samples. The assay should be of utility in the diagnostic laboratory to complement existing human diagnostic testing and as a tool to conduct WN virus surveillance in the United States.
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              Epidemic West Nile encephalitis, New York, 1999: results of a household-based seroepidemiological survey.

              In the summer of 1999, West Nile virus was recognised in the western hemisphere for the first time when it caused an epidemic of encephalitis and meningitis in the metropolitan area of New York City, NY, USA. Intensive hospital-based surveillance identified 59 cases, including seven deaths in the region. We did a household-based seroepidemiological survey to assess more clearly the public-health impact of the epidemic, its range of illness, and risk factors associated with infection. We used cluster sampling to select a representative sample of households in an area of about 7.3 km(2) at the outbreak epicentre. All individuals aged 5 years or older were eligible for interviews and phlebotomy. Serum samples were tested for IgM and IgG antibodies specific for West Nile virus. 677 individuals from 459 households participated. 19 were seropositive (weighted seroprevalence 2.6% [95% CI 1.2-4.1). Six (32%) of the seropositive individuals reported a recent febrile illness compared with 70 of 648 (11%) seronegative participants (difference 21% [0-47]). A febrile syndrome with fatigue, headache, myalgia, and arthralgia was highly associated with seropositivity (prevalence ratio 7.4 [1.5-36.6]). By extrapolation from the 59 diagnosed meningoencephalitis cases, we conservatively estimated that the New York outbreak consisted of 8200 (range 3500-13000) West Nile viral infections, including about 1700 febrile infections. During the 1999 West Nile virus outbreak, thousands of symptomless and symptomatic West Nile viral infections probably occurred, with fewer than 1% resulting in severe neurological disease.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                September 25 2003
                September 25 2003
                : 349
                : 13
                : 1236-1245
                Article
                10.1056/NEJMoa030969
                14500806
                © 2003
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