Living with West Nile Virus

Living with West Nile Virus

Jack Handy is Springfield's Pickleball Club president, but you won't see him playing for more than a few minutes.

That's because of complications that all started two years ago, he noticed while out of town at a pickleball tournament.

"Drove home Monday, Labor Day, two years ago and stayed in bed for four days,” Handy sayd. “And my wife took me to the emergency room. They sent me home but in 24 hours I was back worse."

Handy had contracted West Nile virus, and he didn't even know he was bit. To this day, he still has complications.

"A lot of it is nerve damage,” Handy said. “My right leg and my left arm were damaged. And now I’m still struggling with breathing. I have a paralyzed diaphragm on my left side."

Health experts say Sangamon County is no stranger to West Nile. The virus first entered the state in 2002.

"People need to make sure to use EPA registered insect repellent, making sure they wear long sleeves and long pants whenever possible, especially when they're outside,” said Jim Stone, director of public health at the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.

Now Handy warns others to be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms, but he says not to live your summer in fear. He says others may get bitten by a mosquito with West Nile and may never even know it.

"Very few people have any reaction whatsoever and most of them that do have a reaction,” Handy said. “It's just like a mild case of the flu that's gone after a day or two."

Illinois has had 22 human cases of West Nile so far this year and it has spread to 58 counties. That number could still go up, depending on weather patterns.

We won't be in the clear for West Nile until after our first or second hard frost. Experts also warn to be on the lookout for standing water around your home, which is a breeding ground for mosquitos.

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