By Amorette Allison
Statistics show that West Nile virus cases are on the upswing. Jim Krise of Miles City can confirm the statistics, as he is still suffering from his encounter with the mosquito-borne virus.
Krise suspects he was infected in mid-July. His first symptom was a severe back ache that felt “like a knife stuck under his shoulder blades” that came out through his chest. After an EKG to make sure the pain wasn’t heart related, he was given painkillers.
The next stage was a heavy, dense rash, which appears occasionally in West Nile infections but not always. He was given a Prednisone, which Krise feels may have been a mistake, as steroids reduce the functioning of the immune system. The rash went away, but the back pain didn’t.
The next symptom was a fever that spiked at 103°F. Krise described the fever and accompanying discomfort as “miserable.” He now suspected he knew the cause of his misery was West Nile.
The fever passed, but the exhaustion remained. The rancher and businessman could barely get out of bed for several days. The lack of energy can last for weeks after the initial infection.
Most people who are infected have no symptoms and only know they had the disease when later tests show antibodies. About 20 percent of people develop the more severe symptoms. Because the disease is a virus, there is no direct treatment for it. Doctors can only offer support to reduce symptoms, not make them go away.
Krise knows that even though he is still suffering from the “knife in the back” pain and lack of energy, it could have been worse. Some people develop the neuroinvasive form of the disease as West Nile encephalitis, meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis. The back ache is possibly a milder form of these severe symptoms, affecting the muscles around his spine rather than the spinal cord itself.
While less than 1 percent of those infected develop the most severe form of the disease, it can be fatal. For those who recover, the recovery time is measured in months and years, in some cases. Hospitalization is required for the most severe cases.
Krise, who grew up in Arizona, served in the Navy as a pilot for 10 years, and has been a resident of this area for the past 20 years. He is a Farm Bureau Insurance agent in Miles City who lives halfway between Miles City and Terry.
While still feeling “fuzzy” and suffering from dizziness sometimes on standing, along with the backache and tiredness, Krise knows all he can do is slowly get better.
Published Sept. 5, 2012