Fort Worth Nurse Battles Against West Nile Virus

Denise Brunson is recovering at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital from the neuroinvasive form of West Nile virus and spoke only to NBC 5 News about her ordeal.

She is a nurse at the same hospital where she is a patient, and like most residents, said she took precautions, such as using bug spray, to protect herself against mosquitoes.

"You get bit by a mosquito and you don't think anything of it. You think, 'Oh well, I hope it's not infected,' but you don't really believe it's going to happen," said Brunson.

However, three weeks ago, inexplicable symptoms, such as stomach pain and high fevers, began to present themselves.

Brunson said two trips to the emergency room and a trip to her doctor's office didn't immediately reveal the problem.

She was admitted to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with West Nile virus last week.

"You could have blown me away with a feather. It was like, 'What?' You know, you see it on TV, but you don't see it happen to you," Brunson said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the county health department reported 24 residents have contracted West Nile this season.

Brunson's neighbors tell NBC 5 the city and county haven't done enough to protect against mosquitoes and claim another resident in their neighborhood contracted West Nile virus weeks before Brunson.

In a statement to NBC 5, the city of Fort Worth said it, "has not received any information about her case until her family member contacted us this morning. We requested the family member have their physician contact the Tarrant County Public Health Department. We are also working in conjunction with Tarrant County Public Health to obtain additional information about the alleged WNV case. Following that phone call, we reached out to our partner, the University of North Texas Health Science Center to arrange for additional mosquito testing. The history of the testing site is located within 1/2 mile from her residence. It has been a consistent low-risk with only one mosquito sample testing positive for West Nile virus in August. The city of Fort Worth has been spraying throughout the summer in areas where West Nile virus is high as well as the mosquito population. The decision to target ground spray includes: Trapping, testing and once we have multiple and consecutive West Nile virus activities at one site, the city has the option to target ground spray at that location. Prior to each spray mission this year, public meetings have been held in each neighborhood where the high risk resides."

"Only one in five people who contract West Nile virus show symptoms," said Dr. Minh Nghi, chief program director of Texas Health Southwest.

Nghi added that most of those who show symptoms have underlying conditions, but as in Brunson's case, "there's a subset of patients that we don't know why they develop symptoms, but they do."

Brunson's condition continues to improve and after 13 days in the hospital. She will soon be able to continue her recovery at home, though she still has trouble walking and with fine motor skills.

"It was probably the worst I ever felt in my life. Honestly, I wasn't sure which way this was going," she said. "Make sure you're using mosquito protection and wearing sleeves and not letting your kids go out there if there are mosquitoes."

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