Doctor: Few West Nile Virus Patients Tested Right Away

By: Jeremy Desel, KHOU Email
By: Jeremy Desel, KHOU Email

HOUSTON—Researchers say few people who end up testing positive for West Nile Virus are tested when they are first fighting the disease.

Even though Bill Wampler had a number of West Nile Virus symptoms, and doctors suspected meningitis, he was never tested for the virus.

“My fever was like 104, I couldn’t think, I was just totally out of control,” he said.

The hospital was worried enough to put him in isolation and make his visitors wear bio-hazard suits.

“I saw my wife standing over me in this crazy outfit. I didn’t know what was going on. I was scared,” he said.

Dr. Kristy Murray of the Tropical Medicine Center at Baylor College of Medicine has spent the last ten years working with West Nile survivors like Wampler. She has been looking for long-term health impacts, and patient complaints that they were never tested initially are common.

“Often we hear the patient’s family saying could this be West Nile, should we test for West Nile? And some of them actually reporting that they had to convince the doctors to test them,” said Murray.

Less than 20 percent of Murray’s study patients were tested right away.
Just because people come to the hospital doesn’t mean they will be tested, and one of the reasons for that is because the test itself isn’t done at the hospital. The samples have to be sent off to the County Health Department or the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC is where Wampler’s test went.

“It was about three months from the time that I got ill, to the time we got a reading back that it was West Nile Virus,” Wampler said.

It took time to diagnose, and now the West Nile Virus and will be with him forever. West Nile took his sight.

“It has destroyed my livelihood. Not just affected it. It has destroyed it,” he said.

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