La Crosse encephalitis (LACE), a viral illness vectored by mosquitoes, is endemic in western North Carolina. Clinical manifestations of LACE virus infection range from a mild fever to aseptic meningitis or frank encephalitis. Due to absent or non-specific symptoms and the absence of an accurate, timely diagnostic tool, the true incidence and prevalence of LAC virus infection is unknown for the endemic foci of the illness. To estimate the socioeconomic burden of LACE in North Carolina, interviews of serologically confirmed LACE patients or the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the patients were conducted. Participants exhibited three severities of LACE: frank encephalitis with no sequelae (n=4); frank encephalitis with limited sequelae (n=16), and frank encephalitis with lifetime sequelae (n=5). The burden resulting from LACE is divided into three categories: direct medical costs; indirect medical costs; and emotional burden. For patients exhibiting severe, lifetime sequelae that are projected to limit future earning potential (n=2), projected loss of income estimates are included based on the severity of sequelae reported over the lifetime of the patient. Quantitative and qualitative measures of the socioeconomic burden of LACE are included in the analyses to create an estimate addressing both the economic and social impacts of LACE on the family. The substantial socioeconomic burden resulting from LACE highlights the importance of the illness in western North Carolina and the need for active surveillance and prevention programs for the vector/virus complex.
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