Socio-demographic Variables as Risk Factors for Neurologic Disease due to Infection by West Nile Virus

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The primary question asked by this research was "Can socio-demographic characteristics be considered risk factors for neurological disease due to West Nile Virus?" Based on the results of this research, the answer is yes. Socio-demographic characteristics identified as risk factors are related to educational attainment, income, age of housing and poverty. Socio-economic variables were useful in discriminating between high moderate and low infection rates and showed modest capabilities of estimating actual rates.

One of the most important findings of the research was the public health officials own ideas about the greatest obstacle to preventing the spread of WNV in their jurisdictions. General consensus is that more resources be made available to properly combat this pathogen. More staff and funds to pay workers and provide support for every aspect of surveillance, prevention and control are deemed necessary. Specifically, there is a great need for personnel with specialized training. The support and encouragement of public health organizations is needed to attract individuals into academic fields that will prepare them for infectious disease epidemiology which is crucial to the field.

Local level response may have been dictated by resource availability as opposed to the perceived threat. Surprisingly, length of time in the current position was more closely related to lower infection rates than length of surveillance. This suggests that more experienced public health workers likely have some knowledge or experience which was not made known through the survey. Policy implications suggest increased education for public health officials, especially encouragement of more experienced workers to share their knowledge and experiences with less experienced workers.