September 21, 2011
West Nile virus becoming a growing threat in Mississippi
By Gary Pettus
Read this story in The Clarion-Ledger.
It was two months ago, Crystal Walley
remembers, when the mosquitoes attacked
her leg and foot.
"Later, I noticed I had a rash and swollen
lymph nodes; I thought it was a just
reaction to some antibiotics I was taking,"
said Walley, 32, of Waynesboro.
But dizziness and vomiting followed, and
she was rushed to the emergency room.
"Then it got 1,000 times worse," said her
mother, Cheryl Bond. "She couldn't move
her mouth or form tears; she couldn't laugh
and she couldn't cry."
But Walley can cry now, especially when she
recalls how close she came to dying from
West Nile virus.
"She had given up on living," Bond said.
Affected by the most dangerous form of
the virus, Walley is one of 33 victims
reported so far this year in the state -
more than four times the number of victims
reported in all of 2010.
Since her treatment began last month at
Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson,
she has regained partial use of limbs
paralyzed by West Nile poliomyelitis, which
attacks the central nervous system.
At Methodist Rehab, Dr. Dobrivoje Stokic,
director of research, and Dr. Arthur Leis, a
neurologist, were the first researchers in
the world to report a link between West
Nile and a poliolike paralysis.
Even West Nile fever - considered a
"benign" form of the virus - can cause
lingering fatigue and loss of concentration,
said Leis, who also works at the University
of Mississippi Medical Center.
"It can be a very wicked condition.
"When people first go to the doctor with
vomiting, headaches and possibly diarrhea,
it can look like the summer flu. In which
case West Nile is often misdiagnosed or
"We have to increase awareness."