Testing for West Nile virus

Thursday, August 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Health officials in Texas are looking at 30 cases of possible West Nile Virus in people, which may have been misdiagnosed as meningitis.

News on Six medical reporter Tami Marler has been looking into whether the same mistake could be made here in Oklahoma. The same mistake could happen here, state officials say supplies of the West Nile test probably won't meet demand. So who should be tested?

The Varcoe family has all the essentials for a successful trip to the lake. "We bring the boat; that's the biggest essential because the kids really like to come out knee-boarding and skiing and stuff like that." Mom takes care of first aid, little scrapes, nicks and insect bites that go along with camping. "We had one bad night over at another campsite where it's not as aired out or something; it kind of congregated there, and we used skin-so-soft and that took care of it. Other than that, we carry a can of Deep Woods Off and that's about it.”

They’re just not overly concerned about West Nile virus and according to statistics, maybe they shouldn't be. The Centers for Disease Control reports 60% of those diagnosed with West Nile are men in their 50s. Whose symptoms progressed from fever, headache, light sensitivity and body aches. To more serious symptoms of encephalitis, especially stiff neck, mental confusion and muscle weakness.

Oklahoma health officials say that's when a physician would likely do a spinal tap, they'd know within a week whether the illness is West Nile. But the diagnosis has no effect on the treatment. Regardless of whether a patient has West Nile or St. Louis encephalitis, the treatment is exactly the same.

Because tests are expensive and in short supply, health officials have only tested six Oklahomans for West Nile and they're reserving tests for those who exhibit worse than flu-like symptoms. The Health Department wants the general public to know about West Nile virus, but not to panic. "No, I hadn't thought too much about it; I probably will now."

The key here is, if you have flu-like symptoms in the summer, see your doctor. Physicians know what to look for and when to test you.