West Nile Virus: A Primer for the Otolaryngologist

Document Type


Publication Date




Since recognition in the United States with a 1999 New York City epidemic, West Nile virus has enduringly migrated westward, leaving few states unaffected. Infection rates are rising at an alarming rate, doubling every year since introduction, with more than 9800 cases in 2003 alone and more than 260 deaths. Patients may present with myriad symptoms including a maculopapular rash that affects the face and trunk and diffuse lymphadenopathy, both of which may result in the initial consultation of the otolaryngologist. We review the clinical history of West Nile virus and its epidemiology, laboratory findings, and variable clinical presentation, with an emphasis on otolaryngologic manifestations.

Study design and setting

Comprehensive review of the literature over the past 50 years with an emphasis on what the present-day otolaryngologist needs to know concerning West Nile virus. Clinical manifestations of the head and neck such as encephalitis, meningitis, maculopapular rash, lymphadenopathy and dysphagia are discussed.


To date, there are no articles in the otolaryngology literature discussing West Nile virus. These patients may present initially to multiple providers in diverse specialties because of multifarious initial signs and symptoms. The otolaryngologist must be educated on this quickly growing affliction and practice with a high index of suspicion.


In this article we describe the clinical manifestations of West Nile virus, with an emphasis on the otolaryngologic manifestations. The otolaryngologist must become educated about this entity to facilitate preventative measures, adequately treat, and assist other providers in hopeful control and potential eradication of this infectious threat.


Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology– Head and Neck Surgery, New York, NY, September 19-22, 2004.



Find in your library

Off-Campus WSU Users