Bitten by bugs: man becomes part of scary WNV statistic

Published: Jul. 3, 2013 at 3:18 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 3, 2013 at 1:46 PM CDT
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POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - Last year, cases of West Nile Virus in Arkansas spiked dramatically. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 64 Arkansans were diagnosed with West Nile Virus.

That number is something the Centers for Disease Control estimates is far lower than how many people might've actually had West Nile. That's because 80% of people infected with WNV will show no symptoms, according to the CDC.  20% of people who become infected experience a fever with little complications.

That wasn't the case for one Randolph County man however, who went weeks without knowing what was wrong with him as his symptoms got worse and worse.

For many in Region 8, it's common knowledge.

"In the woods, up in the hills, you're gonna get tick bit, and if you're down in the bottoms, you know, down by the rice fields, you're gonna get mosquito bit," Jim Green said. "It's just a way of life."

What was not a way of life for Green was the way he started to feel last summer.

"It was about the 4th of July and I just started feeling like I had fever sometimes," he explained. "It was coming on just every day or two I'd start feeling bad again and then I'd kinda get over it."

Green brushed off his symptoms as dehydration from working outside until one afternoon at work, he couldn't stop throwing up.

"I mean, if I'm vomiting, you better do something because I'm really, really sick."

Though Green made a quick trip to the hospital to receive fluids, he didn't stay. But just over 24 hours later,"...that's when the headaches started." Green said. "I mean, I couldn't get out of bed Wednesday because my head hurt so bad."

Green went back to the hospital where he wound up staying for nearly a week.

"They put me in the hospital immediately. They took one look at me and said, 'yeah, you need to go in and go to the hospital.'"

Along with all the other aches and pains, Green learned he had spinal meningitis. He said a spinal tap relieved his headache and he began to feel better again. He was later released from the hospital.

For a while, it was believed he had tick fever. However, a trip to an infectious disease doctor in Jonesboro proved otherwise.

"He came back and said, 'you've had tick fever sometime in the past...but it is not active now so, this is not tick fever. It's something else.'"

The doctor described it as a nondescript virus. Later checkups revealed something he'd never imagined.

"He was keying on his computer, doing his charting and stuff and he said..."I never checked you for West Nile." Everything kind of changed right then."

Green had a blood test and tested positive. It turns out Green didn't have a bout of West Nile like most. He fell ill with the most severe symptoms. The CDC says those symptoms can include spinal meningitis, encephalitis, coma, tremors and paralysis among others.

"It's only like 1% of the people who have West Nile, from what Dr. Abraham told me, that would come up with some of these really bad things," Green said.

Turns out, Green made that 1%.

"Anything that can go wrong will go wrong for me," he laughed.

Though Green does take some precautions against bug bites, "...if I'm gonna be out after dark or something and the mosquitoes are as bad as they get around here, yeah, I'll spray some OFF on me," he explained.

He said here in Region 8, it's just part of it.

"If you're living in this part of the country, you're gonna get bit eventually."

There is no cure for WNV but you can take precautionary measures when outside during the summer months.

Here is a link to the Arkansas Department of Health's tips to avoid mosquito bites in the summer.

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