New West Nile research reveals there could be more danger - - The News for South Mississippi

New West Nile research reveals there could be more danger

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Dr. Vann Craig still feels the effects West Nile took on his body nearly two months after being infected.

Physical therapy is helping the retired surgeon and Director of the Board of Medical Licensure regain strength.

Craig didn't have the classic symptoms of the virus after being bit in early July. He felt weak and had a loss of appetite. After feeling sick for a couple of days, he finally had to see a doctor.

"I fell by the side of my bed and I couldn't get up. I was that weak," recalls Craig.

He spent about a week in the hospital and doesn't remember hardly any of his time there. Doctors told Craig's family he may not survive.

He compares West Nile to Polio because of its neurological effects.

"I don't think the general population understands this disease and how bad it can be, and I don't think the physicians in the southeastern united states understand how bad it can be."

Methodist Rehab Neurologist Dr. Art Leis says people diagnosed with West Nile either have neuro-invasive disease or benign West Nile fever.

His research of 90 samples shows 40 percent of those with the benign virus had brain and spinal cord proteins in their blood stream.

"This is fairly strong evidence that even in the so-called benign West Nile fever cases, we're actually seeing some destruction of brain and spinal cord. And, this offers the first explanation for why these patients who are supposed to have a limiting or self-limiting type of illness, why they have all these re-occurring, lingering symptoms," says Leis. 

The symptoms, which can last for months, include fatigue, lack of concentration, and difficulty sleeping.

Leis believes West Nile is more neuro-invasive than first thought, which could result in a second condition known as myasthenia gravis. That condition destroys how nerves talk to muscles in the body.

"It makes them think that they have west Nile fever or west Nile virus infection all over again, and it's been very hard to sort out which is which because there are a lot of overlapping symptoms," Leis.

His research has been published in Muscle and Nerve Journal.

There is no cure for West Nile and Leis believes prevention is the only way to combat the problem.

Leis believes the number of West Nile cases and patients across the country will reach record, even epidemic numbers this year.

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