Two members of a Dallas support group for West Nile virus survivors say the disease changed their lives.
In last year's outbreak, 89 Texas died of the virus, and more than 1,800 people survived. Two members of a Dallas support group for survivors say the disease changed their lives.
Dr. Don Read used to work almost 90 hours a week at Medical City Dallas Hospital until he contracted West Nile virus eight years ago.
"You never think anything is going to happen to you -- until it does," said Read, who wears leg braces to help him walk around at work.
During the worst part of the disease, Read thought he might die.
"My legs were paralyzed. My arms were mostly paralyzed," he said. "I couldn't talk. I couldn't hear. I couldn't write. I couldn't communicate."
Now, he's back at work, but he's not logging 90-hour weeks. He’s down to about 35 a week. But he’s also talking to other West Nile virus survivors in a bimonthly support group.
Ross Lind, a member of the group, grew up in in Canada, where, he jokes, mosquitoes are as big as birds. But a tiny Texas mosquito put the 6-foot-8-inch man on his back a year ago.
"I woke up in the night shaking so violently my teeth were banging together, and I couldn't stop," he said. "I was chilled to the bone."
Lind thought he had malaria. He was tired, lethargic and aching. But after a doctor saw a rash on his body, blood tests proved it was West Nile virus.
Lind said he was relieved when he got the diagnosis -- until he talked to his doctor.
"'I don't want to scare you,' and that's a surefire sign they're about to scare me, and he said, 'Well, we've had a number of cases go through this office and not all of them made it.' And now I don't know what to do," he said.
The next three and a half weeks were rough on Lind, who works outdoors.
"I couldn't make it to the kitchen because I'd get there and have to sit down," he said. "Sometimes I have to sleep 15 to 20 minutes on the way home before I can make home."
Lind and Read say they want to remind people that anyone can be infected. As West Nile virus season gets underway, people should protect themselves, they said.
West Nile Virus Facts
Most people bitten by a West Nile virus-infected mosquito will not show any symptoms. Symptoms, if they appear, are fever, headache, nausea, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and skin rashes.
Fewer than 1 percent of those infected with West Nile virus experience the serious form of the illness. Serious symptoms include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors or convulsions, vision loss, muscle weakness and numbness or paralysis.
North Texas health officials urge residents to:
- Drain standing water around their homes to reduce mosquito breeding grounds.
- Dress in pants and long sleeves when outside, but avoid becoming too hot.
- Apply an insect repellent that contains DEET to exposed skin and to clothing when outdoors.
- Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.