Ever wonder what the face of West Nile Virus looks like?
Meet CJ McCue — he’s 10 years old. When he contracted the virus back in August 2012, he was just seven. His family hadn’t been camping, wading through a swamp or spending long times in the outdoors. He might have just been walking to the car or into a grocery store and been infected.
People typically develop symptoms between three and 14 days after being bitten by the infected mosquito.
“The first symptoms showed up on the second day of second grade,” said his mother, Wendy. “First, he complained about being really dizzy, like how it feels after putting your forehead on a baseball bat and spinning around then trying to walk. He couldn’t walk down a hallway straight. Next, came a very high 105-degree fever with uncontrollable shaking.”
That was the start of a year-long cycle of: “My head hurts, my stomach hurts.”
CJ’s second grade year was a challenge. He didn’t grow at all that school year and he was perpetually sick. The virus attack on his immune system also took a toll on his ability to concentrate and focus on school work, too. The virus tends to concentrate or centralize in one area of the body. For CJ it was his head and throat.
When he was younger, he’d had frequent earaches and had tubes in his ears. The virus essentially “cooked” his tonsils which were removed in April 2014.
“Everything that could’ve gone wrong with that procedure–and how his body responded—did,” Wendy said. “One of his tonsils ruptured as it was being removed. Then, his scabs in his throat came off and they had to cauterize his throat … they didn’t even take the time to get him out of his street clothes to save time.”
With time, removing his tonsils has improved some of the chronic illness.
“It took some time and trials, but we’ve figured out that the AdvoCare product of ImmunoGuard and a probiotic taken daily, plus Vitamin B, help keep him stable,” Wendy said. “He’s back on-track physically, ranking in the 95th percentile for his age—5’2” and 107-pounds.”
CJ is a rising fifth grader at Argyle Intermediate School and the youngest of three McCue brothers, ages 10, 12 and 14.
“His older brothers are typical older brothers,” Wendy said. “They don’t give him any special attention and we don’t restrict his activities. He’s a catcher for his baseball team—and his select team—and he’s going to try tackle football this fall. Heat does seem to be a ‘trigger,’ so we make sure he’s well hydrated and have a variety of cooling techniques on hand.”
CJ will live with West Nile Virus for the foreseeable future, possibly his lifetime.
The month of February is also the time of year that seems to put stress on his system, as far as “everyday” viruses like colds and so on.
One thing that has changed since CJ was infected is that his mother uses essential oils and other pest control measures as a matter of course.
“Right now if I tell him he’s strong he believes me,” Wendy said. “Right now we do our best. Right now we treat the symptoms as they show up. I’m sad there are no answers.”
According to the Center for Disease Control website, most people who are infected with West Nile Virus (80-percent or four out of five people) will not show any symptoms at all. Some infected people (up to 20-percent) will have milder symptoms that can last for only a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
Symptoms include: fever; headache; body aches; nausea; vomiting; swollen lymph glands; and/or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. One in 150 people infected with West Nile Virus —like CJ– will develop severe illness. These symptoms may last several weeks; neurological effects may be permanent. The severe symptoms can include: high fever; headache; neck stiffness; stupor; disorientation; coma; tremors; convulsions; muscle weakness; vision loss; numbness; and/or paralysis.
Health officials suggest that you follow the suggested “4D’s” to minimize your risk of mosquito bites: DRAIN all freestanding water. DRESS in long sleeves and in long pants. DUSK/DAWN are times when mosquitoes that carry WNV are most active. DEET–use insect repellent that contains DEET.