Keller officials battle West Nile early, hope for a milder season

Mar 16, 2013 Comments Off on Keller officials battle West Nile early, hope for a milder season

FORT WORTH — City officials have worked through the mosquito “off season,” responding to emails and calls about abandoned swimming pools and other areas that could become breeding grounds for the West Nile virus-carrying insects.

“We’ve already started looking at places that have stagnant water,” said James Whitt, environmentalist for the city of Keller. “After last year, we’re addressing the issues and trying to head it off before it gets bad.”

Whitt will join other officials from cities around Tarrant County on March 12 for the county’s mosquito control and abatement program orientation.

Al Roy, spokesman for Tarrant County Public Health, said that so far this year nothing has tested positive in the county but it is too early to tell what kind of a year officials will face.

“We are getting the jump on it early. Last year we started in April,” Roy said. “We’ve continued to test and since last year, we haven’t really stopped.”

Authorities said their approach will to begin preventative measures early, after last year’s record number of deadly cases. More than 240 deaths were reported nationwide with a third of them in Texas.

Eleven deaths were reported from the virus in Tarrant County, according to the county’s website. Tarrant County health officials also documented 279 cases of West Nile virus and 100 positive mosquito pools last year.

North Fort Worth resident Bruce Sevier, one of those 279 cases, said most news stories focus on numbers and deaths, and not necessarily on healthy adults who were severely affected in other ways.

Sevier, a resident in the 76137 ZIP code, was diagnosed with West Nile Virus Encephalitis in August.

A father of three children and three grandchildren, Sevier had just turned 54 and was very active. He exercised regularly and kept a running routine of four days per week since college.

Sevier was taken to the hospital on Aug. 10 after he came down with a fever of 102, lost strength in his legs and collapsed when he tried to stand up. He soon could barely move at all and lost muscle control of his entire lower body and much of his trunk and upper body.

Sevier spent five weeks in a rehabilitation facility learning how to transfer safely from wheelchair to bed and getting educated on how things would work once he returned home.

Sevier said doctors could not tell him if he would ever walk again, but said that whatever his physical condition was at the one-year anniversary of contracting the illness, likely would be where he would be at for the rest of his life.

So he got busy. Today, Sevier is constantly working on building back his muscle strength.

Megan Brooks, senior public relations specialist with Texas Health Resources, said Sevier goes to physical therapy at Texas Health Alliance three times per week.

He works in pool exercises with a therapist and treadmill walking while harnessed up to keep his balance. He also lifts weights daily and bikes on a stationary bike at home.

“He has progressed to being able to walk on his own with a walker for about 1,000 feet,” she said.

Brooks said when Sevier first began outpatient therapy in October he could only go 20 feet with a walker, and only with assistance from a therapist.

“This guy is driven and has such a positive attitude,” she said. “I asked if he hopes to run again one day, and he said he’d ‘be thrilled if he could just walk functionally again.’ If he could run again, he said he’d never stop.”

Sevier, an assistant manager of locomotives for BNSF Railway, went back to work last month.

Sevier said he typically is not the type of person who wants to be in the spotlight, but wanted to share his story to encourage others to use preventative measures to protect against the disease.

“The biggest thing is prevention, ” he said. “Once you’re infected, there’s nothing you can do.”

Story provided by the Star Telegram –http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/03/04/4659515/city-officials-battle-west-nile.html

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