Dallas County calls for state help in West Nile fight

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on July 27, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 30 at 2:35 PM

DALLAS -- As the number of human cases of West Nile virus in North Texas continues to rise and the virus spreads, the Dallas County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management filed a formal request for state assistance.

Dallas County Health Department Director Zach Thompson said he's requesting more supplies, including chemicals and mosquito traps, to keep abreast of surveillance.

"We are not going to be at the epicenter of the West Nile epidemic without making the state aware of our situation," Thompson said.

Despite almost daily reports about West Nile, doctors don't seem to be getting the message that this virus is back in a big way this year. More than 100 North Texans have been diagnosed with West Nile this year.

For many of them, it takes multiple trips to the doctor.

Nicki Matthews, 68, is sure she was bitten by a West Nile-infected mosquito, breeding in her Fort Worth hot tub before it was cleaned out in May.

Since then, it's been sheer misery.

"It was the most excruciating thing," Matthews said. "It was like somebody took every bone I had, and they were just putting it in a vise and squeezing it as hard as they could."

"I didn't care if I lived or died," she continued. "You couldn't lie down, couldn't sleep, couldn't stand up. It was horrible."

It took three trips to the hospital before Matthews was diagnosed with West Nile encephalitis.

It was also three frustrating trips for Jennifer Salazar, who lives an hour away in Lancaster. She got sick after Independence Day.

"I'm in a daze," Salazar said. "I don't feel like I'm really here."

The 36 year old, who doctors insisted was too young for West Nile, just returned home from five days in the hospital.

Even now, she can barely walk a few feet without resting.

"I'm scared to get another headache," she said. "The headaches are just unbearable."

Nicki Matthews still can't lift her right arm above her head.

For most, doctors say only time will ease the agony of West Nile. Symptoms and treatment for the disease are similar to the flu.

Experts say if you have flu-like symptoms this summer, doctors should suspect and test for West Nile.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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