Woman says West Nile Virus changed her life


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The first human case of West Nile Virus in Kern County was confirmed this morning by the Public Health Department. 

No details were released about the person infected. But experts remind the community to stay protected because it can happen to anyone, and it can have extreme consequences. 

Joyce Mahan was diagnosed with West Nile Virus last October. 

“It was always on my mind, like when you see a mosquito,” said Mahan. “I just never thought it would happen to me.”

She remembers it like it was yesterday. 

“The lower back pains, those were the worst,” said Mahan. “I broke out in a rash, the last sign was when my legs gave up and I just fell to the ground.”

Mahan was then rushed to the emergency room where they diagnosed with West Nile Virus.

“It’s changed my life a lot,” said Mahan.

The virus can be a serious illness. While most people infected don’t ever get diagnosed due to not feeling ill, about 20 percent do. A very small portion, just about one percent of those infected develop neurological symptoms like Mahan. 

As a result of the virus, Mahan suffered nerve damage in her legs. Her right leg is severely damaged. She’s unable to move it. her left is partially damaged. 

In rare cases, it can also be fatal.

So far this year, two West Nile Virus fatalities have been reported in California – one in Fresno County, the other in Imperial Couty.

Here in Kern County, experts say they expect to see a high number of cases this year. 

“Right now we have over 200 traps set up all over our district for mosquitoes and we’ve found West Nile Virus in a lot of them,” said Gene Abbott, director with the Kern County Mosquito Vector.

It’s nothing out of the ordinary, they say 

“That’s common during this time of year,” said Abbott. “I don’t think people should be scared. I think they should be aware and take precautions.”

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