HICKORY CREEK — North Texas health departments are trying desperately to educate the public about the West Nile virus and how to prevent it.
But as the death toll rises along with the number of human cases, some people are questioning whether the public is getting the message.
Samantha Pierce, a 22-year-old Hickory Creek woman, never thought she was at risk. She was proven wrong.
Pierce didn't pay much attention to the rising number of human cases. She didn't wear repellent when outdoors.
"I didn't even think it was possible," Pierce said.
But three weeks ago, what she thought couldn't happen to her, did.
She became very sick after what looked like an infected mosquito bite. She tested positive for West Nile.
"It was a slap in the face for me, because I was really sick," Pierce said. "I laid in bed for three or four days.
Despite extensive news coverage and public education efforts, people still don't seem to be getting the message: A few simple precautions can reduce your chances of becoming infected.
"It's very scary to think that people don't know enough about West Nile," said Samantha's mother, Debbie Pierce.
Samantha Pierce hopes others will learn a lesson from her experience: It can happen to anyone.
From now on, she will take the extra measures she didn't take three weeks ago, including:
- wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors
- using insecticide containing the ingredient DEET
- staying indoors during the peak times of mosquito activity at dawn, dusk, and early evening
"It's not something you want to go through," Pierce said. "It was miserable."