Father Almost Loses Daughter to Mosquito-Borne Illness

By: Amelia Nahmias Email
By: Amelia Nahmias Email

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va --- So far, 1,600 cases of West Nile Virus have been reported this year. With five cases in Virginia and one case in Rockingham County, one man is working hard to protect his family after an experience with a mosquito-borne illness.

A few years ago, Gary Meeks' daughter was diagnosed with encephalitis. Like West Nile Virus, encephalitis is a virus that mosquitoes transmit.

"We experienced the encephalitis. The poor little girl was on morphine," said Meeks.

He said two other kids got the same virus, and he thinks they all got it from the same place.

"We believe she got it from the creek water. There were two other girls downstream that got it. We insisted that she go in the hospital immediately, even though the doctor thought it might just be a cold."

Meeks' daughter recovered, but the other girls were not as lucky.

"One of the girls had to get her skull cut open and the other girl's in a wheelchair today."

The case of West Nile Virus in Rockingham County really hit home for Meeks. Because standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, Meeks made sure to check his farm for those sources of stagnate water.

"I thought I better get out on my farm and start looking for all the water I can find. It has surprised me, how much water is there."

A mosquito's breeding cycle lasts about a week. Dumping water and breaking this cycle, can cut down on the number of new bugs.

"Even if you only do it once a week, it'll be doing you good. But, twice a week is the recommendation."

Mosquitoes are also harmful to animals. In 2002, a veterinarian in Waynesboro, Dr. Leslie Sheridan, diagnosed Augusta County's first case of West Nile virus in a horse. A year later, she experienced a major outbreak of the virus.

"I personally lost six patients to it and it was awful,” said Dr. Sheridan. “I wanted to quit my job because these horses just get debilitated. They can't get up, and eventually they die."

Meeks said simple steps can save lives.

"Just roam around your farm, or home, or industry and look for anything that may be holding water."

Meeks said he was surprised at the number of things that can hold standing water and he said even the smallest places can be a breeding ground.

You can learn more about mosquito-borne illness and track cases around the country on our On the Web blog here: Keep Track of West Nile Virus around the Country http://www.whsv.com/blogs/ontheweb/Keep_Track_of_West_Nile_Virus_around_the_Country_166445816.html

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