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Effects of West Nile Virus Linger

Effects of West Nile Virus Linger

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The US already has at least 402 confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus this year, with Colorado being the hardest hit to date. Many worry about when it will arrive in Utah.

Researchers are now taking a closer look at long-term effects of the illness. It turns out almost a year later some patients are still suffering.

Last August, Julie Ternes got West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite, so she's sure to put repellent on her daughter Janie. But a year after being diagnosed, Julie is still suffering from fatigue, and that's not all.

Julie Ternes, Had West Nile Virus: “I still have headaches every day. I've taken several types of medication to try to have them subside, nothing has worked. Memory loss, which leads me to be very frustrated. Short term and a little long-term memory loss."

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report these same symptoms as some of the long-term neurological effects of West Nile Virus. Dr. James Sejvar and colleagues studied sixteen people with neurological illness from West Nile Virus over the course of eight months. Their study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and identifies other long-term effects as well.

James Sejvar, M.D., CDC Researcher: “Movement disorders, in particular tremor, jerking of the muscles and parkinsonism, characterized by stiffness of limbs and difficulty with balance, and also flaccid paralysis, polio-like syndrome."

The polio-like paralysis may be permanent, but there is good news regarding patients whose West Nile Virus caused encephalitis, swelling of the brain.

James Sejvar, M.D., CDC Researcher: "Even though they had very severe encephalitis at presentation, by three or so months out they were almost or basically fully recovered."

Julie is still waiting for her full recovery from West Nile Virus. She's been sick for most of her daughter's life.

Julie Ternes, “I'm forgetting things that have happened in the past about her. It angers me that a bug, or a mosquito, has caused all of this."

The best way to lower your risk of West Nile Virus is to stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. And when you do go outdoors in areas with mosquitoes, wear clothes that cover your skin and use insect repellent that contains deet.

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