Tulsan diagnosed with West Nile virus speaks to 2News

TULSA - West Nile virus continues to spread across Oklahoma.

Health officials have told 2NEWS that until this year there has been a lull in the number of cases, but now that seems to be changing.

So far, eight West Nile cases have been reported, four in Tulsa County. Two were reported in Pittsburg County, one in Garfield County and one in Carter County.

The people infected range in age from 29 to 78.

The virus is spread by mosquitos, but the odds of many people becoming infected are still slim.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, dizziness and muscle weakness.

2News spoke by phone with a Tulsan who was diagnosed with the virus.

Jim Schmidt thinks he was bitten in Tulsa and then the symptoms hit him while on vacation in Florida.
He says it's a severe case and he was in the ICU for days. Schmidt says it started with muscle pain.

"Everyday got a little bit worse. Then finally one day I got some red dots all over my back, and then I knew something was wrong," Schmidt said.

Schmidt checked into an emergency room. Dozens of tests later, his doctors diagnosed him with West Nile virus. Jim's wife Sheila says she thinks he's been through the worst of it.

"We feel like we are very blessed. I believe with all my heart if Jim was not as healthy as he is, No. 1, and No. 2, if God had not been with us he would not be alive today," she said.

Back here in Tulsa, doctors at Ergent Care on Riverside Drive have been getting calls from concerned patients.

"A lot of people assume that children running around, getting bitten all summer long are at greatest risk, but the reality is it's the 50 or older age group that's actually at the greatest risk for developing symptomatic West Nile virus," said Dr. Steve Nussbaum.

Nussbaum says the chances of catching the virus are slim. The CDC reports less than one percent of those infected will develop symptoms.

"It can progress from the flu-like symptoms to extreme headaches, high fevers, neck pain, stiffness, you can develop a meningitis," Nussbaum said.

Experts say you should use insect repellant with Deet, avoid being outside at dusk and dawn and eliminate standing water around your home.

"Taking all of those precautions are so important right now because there are cases in Oklahoma," Sheila Schmidt said.

"To me, a pretty garden is nice, but West Nile is not worth it," Jim Schmidt said.

There's no cure for West Nile virus. Doctors say it has to run its course.

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