West Nile virus: How testing can make a difference

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on July 30, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 30 at 5:16 PM

CARROLLTON — Dallas County health officials confirmed the fourth and fifth deaths from West Nile virus late Monday afternoon.

Testing is key to determining if an epidemic is under way, but many doctors say there's no reason to test for West Nile because there is no cure.

But  Burton Niles of Carrollton makes a good case for why testing can be very important.

With five mouths to feed, every cent counts for his family. Niles works for a non-profit, teaching landscaping. So when the 39-year-old got sick with serious flu-like symptoms two weeks ago, he went to the doctor for answers that would get him back to work.

Niles described his symptoms as leaving him "definitely sicker than I've ever been."

"My original suspicion was West Nile. And they [the doctors] said, 'The media is killing us with this. Everybody thinks they've got it,'" Niles said.

It took three trips to different doctors, two nights in a hospital, and countless tests to confirm that Niles really did have West Nile virus. He finally insisted on a blood test.

"That's what frustrates me, is that I went through six diagnoses and not a single one of them was West Nile," Niles said.

"We're probably going to be in debt for years to come because of all the extra testing that we had to go through, and the hospital stay that may or may not have been necessary," added wife Pamela Niles. "We would've found out that you just have to rest and let your body recover."

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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