West Nile & Dialysis, a Medical Mystery

Aug 20, 2004 -- This modern medical mystery story occurred last year in Georgia. Three patients who all received dialysis on the same machine -- one after another -- were infected with the West Nile virus. Did they become infected at the dialysis center or somewhere else? Two lived in the same neighborhood and the third lived about a mile away. While there definitely was a high potential for mosquito exposure where they lived, no West Nile-positive mosquitoes were found.


This cluster of dialysis patients with West Nile infections suggests possible transmission of the virus in the dialysis center. West Nile virus transmission through blood transfusion, organ transplantation, in utero and possibly through breast milk has been described. But in this situation where the dialysis center was a common denominator, the epidemiologic investigation looked at possible cross-contamination of supplies, equipment, medications and procedures. No source or explanation for the three cases of West Nile Virus has been found. It remains on the books as a modern medical mystery.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

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