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DALLAS - 'I still have some memory issues,' Katharyn Deville admits, two years after she was hospitalized in Dallas with West Nile meningitis and encephalitis.

Deville fought off the virus, but had a lingering hand tremor, fatigue, and some mild memory problems for months afterwards.

There is a vaccine to prevent West Nile virus in horses, but one does not exist for people. Treatment is limited to supportive care and time.

In February, Deville was sent a letter from Vanderbilt School of Medicine asking her to participate in research to learn how the body's natural defenses have fought off the virus infection. Researchers at Vanderbilt hope to use what they learn to design vaccines and treatments. The research study is small - just 20 people - but it's hoped the results will be significant.

Deville and other study participants were asked to donate several vials of blood.

'Anything we can do to keep people healthy or help people have an easier time of recovery, I'm all for it,' Deville said.

Now fully recovered from West Nile and living in Louisiana, Deville considers herself one of the lucky ones.

'It's terrible, whether you have a mild case or a severe case,' she said. 'Or, God forbid, people that we know that didn't make it -- that passed away from it.'

Vanderbilt researchers are still looking for patients to participate in the study. Patients must have previously had a confirmed West Nile virus infection they fought off. Interested patients should contact cheri.stewart@vanderbilt.edu.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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