“I can no longer see my kids’ faces”: Woman details her fight with neuroinvasive West Nile disease

Published: Oct. 9, 2019 at 6:54 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -So far for 2019, the Louisiana Department of Health says 5 people were diagnosed with the most serious form of West Nile virus neuro-invasive disease.

It was around Mardi Gras when a woman who only wanted to be identified as Ashley says she started to experience strange symptoms.

“I started hallucinating, my eyesight went bad I didn’t' know if it was temporary or a medicine,” said Ashley.

She says those symptoms worsened to the point where it started to impact her family life. Her children were involved in travel ball at the time, but Ashley says she found she couldn’t even see their successes on the field.

“He’s coming up to bat and I say I can't see him; I just see the color of the jersey is red. I said I just see red, and I started crying and walked to the car,” she said.

She went to multiple doctors, all who told her she had shingles. She said she continued to suffer for months until she got one more opinion.

Ashley said her eyesight deteriorated to a point where she was considered legally blind. She was hallucinating and experiencing memory loss.

“Now I can make out shapes, but I can no longer see my kids’ faces,” she said.

Soon after her diagnosis, she received notification that she was one of the 5 cases of neuroinvasive West Nile disease in the state.

“It makes me want to cry because, it’s changed my life,” said Ashley.

Infectious disease specialists say the neuroinvasive West Nile virus is very rare, it infects about 1 in 150 people. But in fact, most people who are infected with the West Nile virus don’t even know it.

“That’s about 80 percent of people, about 20 percent will develop a flu like illness, then about 1 in 150 infections will develop the neuro invasive complications

Fred Lopez with LSU health says for those infected with the neuroinvasive kind of West Nile, unfortunately there is no anti-viral treatment, only supportive care. But Lopez says given time, the symptoms may subside.

“Many people will resolve these neurological deficits in weeks to months, but there are some that complain of residual and more persistent neurological deficits,” said Lopez.

For Ashley, she says she feels she’s started to turn a corner, as her hallucinations and memory loss are starting to improve. But she hopes people learn from her story, as she says her life was changed with a single bug bite.

“If the state has precautions please heed them… just a year ago i was like this will never happen to me and guess what it did and now I’m suffering for it now,” she said.

Both the state health department and infectious disease experts say the best way to prevent against any kind of West Nile virus is to keep from getting bitten by a mosquito.

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