Health officials brace for West Nile surge

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 5:36 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 23 at 8:38 PM

COPPELL — For the first time since December, Darla Sevieri can walk down the stairs without gasping for breath. How does she feel?

"Achy," said the 45-year-old Coppell resident, "Like the flu on steriods. I mean, I've never hurt so bad... excruciating headache."

Those symptoms have persisted for months, as has Sevieri's determination to find a cause.

After seeing a dozen doctors, only last month did a test point to West Nile virus.

"Once he said it was West Nile, I'm like, 'How?'" Sevieri asked. "How did in the world did I get West Nile? I got sick in December!"

The explanation could be linked to our mild winter. Freezing temperatures usually kill disease-carrying mosquitoes.

That didn't happen this year.

In addition, West Nile cases in people have been dropping steadily over the years in Texas, according to state statistics. Five years ago, there were more than 200 cases. Last year, only seven cases in humans were reported.

The lack of attention could by why the virus wasn't even considered by doctors in Darla Sevieri's case until recently. With West Nile season now looming, she wants to raise awareness.

"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," she said. "I mean, it's horrible."

Sevieri points out that as a personal trainer in good physical condition, she should have recovered quickly — but hasn't.

Dallas County Health and Human Services has not ruled hers an official West Nile illness because of questionable lab results. But health authorities say Sevieri's point about awareness is a good one.

Both Sevieri and the health department are urging North Texans to take precautions against West Nile — including emptying standing water in yards and using mosquito repellant.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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