Silt woman contracts West Nile
October 14, 2007
SILT, Colo. It was a late August afternoon when Joyce Webb of Silt Mesa was outside working in the Mineota Estates area south of Silt when she was bitten by a mosquito on her temple.It was annoying and itchy, but she didn’t think much of it. “I’d been using a Cutter [insect repellent] stick, and normally I’m not that careful. But I’d had three bee stings that month – one on my lip – so I was putting the Cutter on my hair and face.”Nevertheless, the mosquito bite bothered her the rest of the day, and a few days later she started getting severe headaches, back pain and felt totally exhausted.
Joyce went to a chiropractor and also noticed that she had a red, bumpy rash all over her body.”I just thought, ‘What the heck is this?'” she said.Along with the rash, she said her brain became very foggy, and she couldn’t focus her eyes.”I was actually scared,” she said. “I couldn’t focus, and I couldn’t think.” She went to a physician, who told her she had an extreme viral infection and put her on antibiotics.”For those five days, I was zero functioning,” she said. “I was pretty much sleeping the whole time. My head was pounding, and aspirin and Tylenol didn’t help.” Joyce, who is the wife of Post Independent reporter Dennis Webb, went back to the doctor, and he asked some specific questions that included whether a mosquito had bitten her.”I wouldn’t have remembered except that it was hurting and I had to treat it when I got home,” she said.It was determined that Joyce had been stricken with West Nile virus.”It came as quite a shock,” she said. “How could one little mosquito carry something this deadly?”For more than five weeks, Joyce fought the fever and the viral infection that eventually settled in her lungs.”Mine is viral, and there is no treatment,” she said. “Basically, you just have to tough it out. I was unable to function, and the worst part was that I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, my poor brain – I can’t think.’ It affects your brain and literally causes a fog. I was sleeping and sleeping and sleeping.”Out of work for more than a month, Joyce finally started back on a part-time basis and is resuming her own business of Webb Fine Art where she specializes in pottery, framing, woodworking, handmade mirrors and mosaic tiles.Joyce is just one of many people throughout the state who have contracted the disease.According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there have been three reported cases of human West Nile virus in Garfield County as of Friday, Oct. 12. So far, there have been no deaths. Statewide in the same time frame, there have been 544 reported cases of the virus and six deaths.A West Nile virus-infected mosquito was found in Rifle in late August and one also tested positive in Parachute in July.”There is no vaccine against the [West Nile] virus,” said Mary Meisner, Garfield County Public Health nurse. “You need to take ibuprofen, Tylenol, lots of water and juices. You need to listen to your body and rest in a quiet, dark place because your body needs time to repair itself.”Sunglasses will ward off the headaches, and fluids and protein-rich foods, such as legumes, nuts and vegetables, should be eaten, Meisner said.The most serious cases involve encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain and can be fatal.The Culex tarsalis mosquito is the main carrier of the virus. To prevent being bitten, health officials urge people to eliminate all standing water around their homes where mosquitoes breed and to wear protective clothing and insect repellent to ward off potential bites – especially during the hours of dawn and dusk.