Impact of Commercial Testing for West Nile Virus

All of us go to our health care provider when we feel something. In this case, if a person has symptoms of a West Nile virus illness, a specimen is sent of a commercial lab to determine if the person really has been infected by the virus.

Commercial lab tests check for antibodies to the virus. The test results will be sent to your doctor and the state health department will be informed, once the results are confirmed positive.

Though the WNV infection has no cure and though the diagnosis does not change the way the person infected with the virus is being treated, it informs your doctor that he/she does not have to investigate another cause of sickness. Also, it helps your state health department know which areas the virus is active in. Thus, they can plan preventive measures properly. The state health department either will accept that lab test results or test the sample again in the state health department lab to confirm the presence of the infection.

Accuracy of the tests used in commercial labs

Tests used in commercial labs are patterned after tests created and used at the CDC and in state health labs. There will most likely be a second test done on the sample to confirm the infection. State health departments, the FDA, the Association of Public Health Laboratories and CDC are all engaged in tracking new commercial tests. They are also committed to working with the industry to make the tests as accurate as possible.

What does "false positive" test mean?

A "false positive" test result means that in the initial tests, it is indicated that a person has a West Nile Virus Infection. But later, after a more specific test has been done, the person is not actually infected. Naturally, it is important that the state health department and CDC get an accurate idea as to where people are contracting the virus so they can properly plan preventive measures. However, the result does not have a great impact on the individual. Again, there is no specific cure for WNV infection. The person may seek the help of a physician to see in another cause of the illness has to be indentified.

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