FAIRFAX, Va. – It’s here again – West Nile virus has turned up in at least two people in Virginia and two people in Maryland, and many places in the region are reporting mosquitoes have the virus as well.
The mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus breed in standing water. Places like old tires, bird baths, upside-down trash can lids – anything that contains water – can be a breeding ground.
Jorge Arias from the Fairfax County Health Department says any time people go outside, especially near dawn or dusk, they should cover up and use mosquito repellent.
Arias says 80 percent of those who have the virus don’t know it.
“Twenty percent have West Nile fever,” says Arias. “About 10 percent of that 20 percent will have West Nile virus encephalitis and this can be very very life-threatening.”
Arias, who is in his 70s, should know. A year ago, he began feeling some of the symptoms that include fever, fatigue, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. People over 50 are more susceptible to the fever.
In August of 2011, years after Arias began warning people across the region about West Nile virus, he became one of the 26 West Nile cases that have cropped up in Fairfax County since 2002.
Arias’ wife took him to the doctor for a West Nile test. He landed in the hospital on Aug. 25, when he began having seizures.
“I was in a coma for a week,” says Arias. “I was in the hospital for two months. It took me four months to learn how to walk again.”
The Centers for Disease Control says there have been more cases of West Nile virus reported so far this year than in any year since the disease was first detected in the United States in 1999.
Arias, who is back on the job with the Fairfax County Health Department and again warning people about the dangers of West Nile virus, says he’s about 30 percent recovered now with lots of help from family and friends.
Getting West Nile virus in Fairfax County is about a one-in-a-million chance, says Arias. He thinks he was exposed one morning while walking his dogs at 4:30.
He says if symptoms arise, get checked out and insist on a test. He says many doctors in the region aren’t tuned in to the disease.