Life After West Nile

an editorial written by Wendy Station
June 21, 2018
Updated June 22, 2018

 

Since 1999, when most people in North America first heard about West Nile Virus (WNV), we’ve been measuring the impact of West Nile by looking at its fatality count. It’s time to take note of the impact on the survivors of West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease.

It’s important to remember that approximately 80% of people who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all. Only 20% of people who become infected will display symptoms, which can include fever, headache, and body aches. West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease is involvement of the brain and nervous system, a very severe form of WNV infection.

Since 1999, more than 46,086 cases of West Nile Virus in the USA were confirmed by the CDC. Statistics show that 46.8% of these were cases of West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease. That is 21,574 households where lives have been changed, forever. (statistics from CDC Final Cumulative Maps & Data for 1999–2016)

As an advocate for people affected by encephalitis, I was a guest to speak with Congress in Washington DC on the topic.  The public has little knowledge of the impact of encephalitis on the family--people who are struggling to face life itself after surviving this horrible disease. Issues include memory loss, where a fiancée is heartbroken when her future spouse really does not remember her or the promise that they shared. A man's anger with himself, when his spouse is now the solo family bread-winner.  Children who now face their education with frustration, as their peers move ahead and leave them behind. .  A farmer, who can no longer return to his fields.  Or families who experience the worst impact of all, when a loved one loses their battle with encephalitis.

The key to raising awareness is to share information widely. We must: · focus on reducing the mosquito population, and · acknowledge the serious impact of mosquito borne encephalitis such as West Nile and share information and support with survivors and families.

Like a seat belt in a car, these are not precautions to be taken with loud and dramatic panic. But with education, self-respect and motivation, to protect our loved ones and ourselves.

Wendy Station is an encephalitis survivor who has worked more than 15 years to raise awareness in North America on the topic of encephalitis. She is the founder and President of Encephalitis Global Inc., www.encephalitisglobal.org a nonprofit advocacy organization for encephalitis survivors and caregivers.