Doctors: West Nile virus testing backlogged

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - West Nile virus numbers continue to climb, but some doctors' offices are unable to send off lab tests for it because of a backlog.

West Nile virus infections and deaths have hit record levels in the US with the bulk of cases right here in Texas.

Experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe August may have marked the peak, but since symptoms take two weeks to appear, cases are still being reporting well into September.

Dr. Nick Solomos with Kelsey-Seybold Clinics said that when patients come in with flu-like symptoms and request West Nile testing, he tells them, "Right now, because of use, it's not available. We're kind of on back order and will hopefully have it back later in a few months."

Kelsey-Seybold contracts with LabCorp, one of the best-known labs in the country.

KPRC Local 2 put in several calls to LabCorp for comment, but our requests were not answered for several days. Officials later sent us this statement:

"LabCorp has found another resource for the West Nile virus Antibody Panel which is available to Kelsey-Seybold Clinic patients. Kelsey-Seybold physicians and patients will work together to determine, based on symptoms, if testing for West Nile virus is necessary," a LabCorp representative said.

It takes between two to seven days for results to come back, so Solomos said even though the test is helpful in making a final diagnosis, it doesn't change the course of treatment.

He explained, "The initial care doesn't depend so much on what that lab result is. It's more driven by what their symptoms are. Fortunately, most people that develop the infection have milder symptoms, so it's typically supportive care at home, Tylenol, fluids, those kinds of things."

There is no medication or vaccine for West Nile virus even when the symptoms are more severe.

Solomos said severe symptoms include high fever, headaches, cognitive impairment, confusion, seizures and paralysis. He said patients who have those symptoms need to be hospitalized immediately.

Of course, with a cool front on the way, people may be tempted to think the West Nile worries are over, but the CDC expects cases to continue to pop up into October. Health experts recommend that people continue their routine of mosquito repellent, staying indoors at dawn and dusk and getting rid of standing water.

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