West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus, first detected in the Western Hemisphere in 1999 and spread across North America over the next decade. Though endemic in the most populous areas of North America, few studies have estimated the healthcare costs associated with WNV. The objective of this study was to determine direct healthcare costs attributable to WNV illness in Ontario, Canada.
We conducted a cost-of-illness study on incident laboratory confirmed and probable WNV infected subjects identified from the provincial laboratory database from Jan 1, 2002 through Dec 31, 2012. Infected subjects were linked to health administrative data and matched to uninfected subjects. We used phase-of-care methods to calculate costs for 3 phases of illness: acute infection, continuing care, and final care prior to death. Mean 10-day attributable costs were reported in 2014 Canadian dollars, per capita. Sensitivity analysis was conducted to test the impact of WNV neurologic syndromes on healthcare costs.
One thousand five hundred fifty-one laboratory confirmed and probable WNV infected subjects were ascertained; 1540 (99.3%) were matched to uninfected subjects. Mean age of WNV infected subjects was 49.1 ± 18.4 years, 50.5% were female. Mean costs attributable to WNV were $1177 (95% CI: $1001, $1352) for acute infection, $180 (95% CI: $122, $238) for continuing care, $11,614 (95% CI: $5916, $17,313) for final care - acute death, and $3199 (95% CI: $1770, $4627) for final care - late death. Expected 1-year costs were $13,648, adjusted for survival. Three hundred seventeen infected subjects were diagnosed with at least one neurologic syndrome and greatest healthcare costs in acute infection were associated with encephalitis ($4710, 95% CI: $3770, $5650).
WNV is associated with increased healthcare resource utilization across all phases of care. High-quality studies are needed to understand the health system impact of vector-borne diseases and evaluate the cost effectiveness of novel WNV interventions.