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West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus, Polio-like Symptoms

Installed 24 Sep 2002. Latest Update 04 Aug 2016.
Text changes or additions are in bold.

CDC Cites Miss. Virus Study

From page one of The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi
Tuesday, 24 Sep 2002

Researchers at Methodist identify West Nile symptom
By Pamela Berry

    Methodist Medical Center's researchers were the first to report poliolike paralysis stemming from West Nile virus. On Monday, the New England Journal of Medicine gave them their due -- posting the research on its early release Website. (1)
    That paralysis first noted by researchers at Methodist Rehab's Center for Neurological Recovery led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week to warn physicians and public health officials to be aware of that symptom.
    The findings mean physicians dealing with patients suffering from severe muscle weakness or paralysis should rule out the mosquito-borne illness as a possible cause before beginning treatment for conditions that mimic those symptoms, including stroke and Guillain-Barre, a syndrome that also causes paralysis.
    If doctors treat a patient suffering from West Nile virus as if they were suffering from a stroke or Guillain-Barre, it could cause more harm than good, even increasing the risk of death, said Dr. Art Leis, senior scientist at the Center for Neuroscience and Neurological Recovery.
    . . .
    The findings by the center's researchers also appear in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report dated 20 Sep 2002.
    . . .
    Prior to the findings, national guidelines emphasized that West Nile virus was an attack on the brain and could cause encephalitis and meningitis. Although this remains true, the recovery center's research shows the virus can also attack the motor neurons of the spinal cord that control muscle function, causing severe muscle weakness.
    . . .
    Most of the patients [being treated], mainly in their 50's, had been treated for other conditions such as stroke, Guillain-Barre or food poisoning prior to being diagnosed with the West Nile virus.
    . . .
    For years its been known that West Nile virus cause(s) poliolike symptoms in monkeys, horses and birds.
    However, Leis said these important symptoms in humans received little scientific scrutiny.
    While their research on the new findings will continue, Leis said they are urging doctors to re-examine the cases
    of any patients who had four symptoms believed to be caused by West Nile Virus. They include:

    Asymmetrical muscle weakness, where one arm or leg is weaker than the other.
    Absence or decrease in deep tendon reflexes.
    Absence or decrease in bowel or bladder function.
    Respiratory muscle weakness.

    "If doctors see patients with symptoms that suggest involvement of the grey matter of the spinal cord -- particularly in combination with fever, chills and headaches -- with or without meningitis or encephalitis, then these patients should be tested for West Nile virus by sending serum to the Department of Health." Leis said. . . .


(1) Leis, A. A., Stokic, D. S., Polk, J. L., Dostrow, V., Winkelmann, M., "A Poliomyelitis-like Syndrome from West Nile Virus Infection," New England Journal of Medicine, 347, Letters to Editor, Page 1279, 17 Oct 2002. Letter was published at www.nejm.org on 17 Sep 2002.

Related Articles

Polio By Any Other Name: West Nile Virus, Post-Polio Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and a Double Standard of Disbelief - 02 Oct 2002.

[Broken link to Healthpedia.com article on chronic fatigue syndrome has been removed.]

West Nile Mimics Polio - TheScientist - 25 Nov 2002.

West Nile Virus Can Cause Polio-like Symptoms - American Academy of Neurology - ScienceDaily - 01 Apr 2003.

Key Words and Phrases

Encephalitis, Flaccid Paralysis, Meningitis, Poliomyelitis, Poliovirus, Stroke, West Nile Virus

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