Vet Warns About West Nile Virus

If there are mosquitos in the air, then the West Nile Virus is a possibility. But this early in the season is a rarity, considering August and September are the peak months.

In late April, Ben Swartzentruber walked away from his lawn mower and into a life-threatening situation. He hadn't thought twice about the mosquito bites he'd gotten while doing yard work that day until more than a week later.

Swartzentruber says, "I got a tremendous headache all of a sudden, and I was reading, and it was unlike any kind of a headache I've ever had."

Soon, vomiting and blurred vision followed. A five-day hospital stay and several tests later, he found out what it was.

He recalls, "I was called by the doctor's office, and told that I had tested positive for West Nile, which was quite a surprise to me."

Dr. Edward Borter, a veterinarian, says, "It was so early in the season, that it was a big surprise and great concern."

Great concern because Dr. Borter watched dozens of horses suffer and die from West Nile Virus in 2002.

Just like humans, horses can get it from infected mosquitos. The ones who survived now have some degree of resistance to the disease, and owners have been able to protect other horses with a vaccine.

Dr. Borter explains, "They've already been three or four years, and they're forgetting, and I am frightened that this thing is going to hit the horses again because I think they forgot to keep their vaccine program up."

Ben Swartzentruber is trying to keep his strength up, which he may not fully regain for a year.

He says, "But I've bounced back, and I'm working again. But I get tired easy, but that's going to all get better."

And what's already great is the fact that he's built up immunity to West Nile. He says his doctor tells him if he does get it again, it will probably only be a mild case.

The public health nurse with the Daviess County Health Department says there haven't been any confirmed cases of West Nile this year. And that's all she would say.

Even though Mr. Swartzentruber was willing to waive his right to privacy, his doctor, Bryan Porter, wouldn't confirm his case either.

In fact, Daviess County Hospital wouldn't even let me talk to him. So it's been difficult to get the correct information.

Still, people need to wear their insect repellant and be mindful of West Nile.