Fatal Hemorrhagic Fever Caused by West Nile Virus in the United States

  • Paddock C
  • Nicholson W
  • Bhatnagar J
 et al. 
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Abstract

Background. Most West Nile virus (WNV) infections in humans are asymptomatic; severe disease occurs in relatively few patients and typically manifests as encephalitis, meningitis, or acute flaccid paralysis. A few cases of life-threatening disease with diffuse hemorrhagic manifestations have been reported in Africa; however, this clinical presentation has not been documented for any of the > 16,700 cases of WNV disease reported in the United States during 1999 - 2004. We describe a case of fulminant WNV infection in a 59-year-old Florida man who died following a brief illness that resembled hemorrhagic disease caused by Rickettsia reckettsii, dengue virus or yellow fever virus. Methods. Traditional and contemporary diagnostic assays, including culture isolation, electron microscopic examination, reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction amplification, and immunohistochemical stains, were used to confirm systemic WNV infection in the patient. Results. WNV was isolated in a cell culture from a skin biopsy specimen obtained from the patient shortly prior to death. Electron microscopic examination identified the isolate as a flavivirus, and reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction amplified specific WNV sequences from the isolate and patient tissue. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction identified approximately 1 X 10(7) viral copies/mL in the patient's serum. WNV antigens were detected by immunohistochemical stains in intravascular mononuclear cells and endothelium in skin, lung, liver, kidney, spleen, bone marrow, and central nervous system; no viral antigens were identified in neurons or glial cells of the central nervous system. Conclusions. Although hemorrhagic disease is a rare manifestation of WNV infection, the findings provided by this report may offer new insights regarding the clinical spectrum and pathogenesis of WNV disease in humans

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Authors

  • C. D. Paddock

  • W. L. Nicholson

  • J. Bhatnagar

  • C. S. Goldsmith

  • P. W. Greer

  • E. B. Hayes

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