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Utahn Diagnosed With Neuroinvasive Form Of West Nile Virus

OGDEN, Utah – A Utah man was still recovering at a local hospital Tuesday after being diagnosed with the neuroinvasive form of West Nile Virus.

Gina Vodopich said her adult son has spent the last nine days at Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden after he collapsed in his yard two weeks ago and ended up fighting for his life. Five days later, he was diagnosed with a severe form of West Nile Virus.

Only 1% of individuals infected with West Nile Virus develop the neuroinvasive form, but 10% of that 1% die from the disease.

“Two weeks ago, I had a healthy, 37-year-old son,” Vodopich said.

On Tuesday, he was in-and-out of consciousness, still in the hospital and looking at a very long path of rehabilitation from West Nile Virus.

If you think you don’t need to worry about West Nile Virus, Vodopich had a serious warning for you.

Her son, Ryan Stuart, liked working in his yard and had just bought a new home.

“He calls me and tells me he’s sick,” she said.

Vodopich rushed in as a mother and nursed him with hydration and soup. However, Stuart didn’t improve.

“He’s still sick and he’s complaining about a huge headache,” she said.

He had a high fever and stayed in the basement for five days because it was the only room in the house he could tolerate.

“On the sixth day, I get a call from him that’s like, ‘mom…’ and then it becomes just mumbo-jumbo confusion,” Vodopich said.

A few hours later, Stuart’s condition took a turn for the worse.

“He’s collapsed in his yard and he’s laying on the ground,” Vodopich said. “He’s immobile. From there, it just gets worse.”

At the ICU in Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital, it took four days to diagnose him with the neuroinvasive form of West Nile Virus, which has more potential, long-lasting impacts.

“The most effective way of preventing West Nile Virus is to prevent mosquito bites,” said Amy Carter, a public health nurse with Weber-Morgan Health Department.

Since there is no treatment for West Nile Virus, preventing mosquito bites is key. Officials said to wear insect repellent with DEET and long sleeve shirts and pants from dusk to dawn.

“My healthy son has returned to being the son that I had several years ago,” Vodopich said. “He no longer can eat. No longer can (he) walk. Speaking is a few words – most of them are inaudible.”

Vodopich recommended putting on insect repellant whenever we put on sunscreen to avoid mosquito bites and West Nile Virus.

“It just needs to become a common habit that we all have that it’s in our bags, it’s in our cars and that we have it available,” she said.

Stuart was supposed to be starting a new job this week. Instead, he’s hospitalized and his mother is not even sure whether he has insurance. She said his physical rehabilitation could last four months or longer.

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