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Posted: February 11, 2014

West Nile's U.S. price tag: $778 million

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By Christina Hartman

Here's a staggering price tag: $778 million. 

That's how much CDC researchers say serious cases of the West Nile virus have cost the U.S. between 1999 and 2012. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Alvesgaspar)

West Nile can be a nasty. Humans typically get it from mosquitos. For people with normal immune systems though, symptoms are flu-like. (Via Animal Planet)

But more serious cases of the virus can require hospitalization and lead to serious neurologic conditions. 

REPORTER: "80-year-old Ray Fields contracted the virus clearing brush in his backyard. He's been hospitalized for five weeks."

FIELDS: "Right now I can't move my legs here on down." (Via CBS)

Of the 37,000 cases of West Nile virus the CDC studied, 18,000 people had to be hospitalized, 16,000 people got neurologic diseases, and more than 1,500 died. (Via CDC)

And when it comes to that three-quarters of a billion-dollar estimated price tag, the CDC says it included indirect costs, too, like lost productivity. That's important, says the agency, in order for public health officials to really understand the true cost of the virus. There are currently no publicly available vaccines, but researchers are testing a few in trials.

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