Local Woman Contracts West Nile Virus

Shelby Foster tells 11 News it's been a difficult last couple of weeks.

Jarring images of washed out highways and flooded homes are what come to mind regarding the the record amounts of rain to hit much of Colorado.

But another danger lurks in the ample amounts of standing water left behind by recent rain: the West Nile virus.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water--something Colorado has plenty of at the moment. Health officials say flooding has increased the risk of contracting West Nile virus.

Shelby Foster knows first-hand how easy it is to contract the virus. She tells 11 News that two weeks ago, she was attacked by mosquitoes while watching her husband's softball practice at Metcalfe Park in Fountain. She tells 11 News she was probably bitten by five or six mosquitoes.

A few days later, she started to feel sick: body aches, stiff neck, raging headache, and at one point a fever that reached 103 degrees. When she went to the hospital, thinking it was the flu, she discovered it was actually West Nile.

"I was surprised...I had to think for a minute, 'Am I thinking the same thing she said?'"

The virus typically develops in five to 14 days after being bitten, exactly the amount of time it took Foster to develop the symptoms.

"I've been pretty miserable," she said.

Foster has been in and out of the doctor's office and the ER, and is taking three medications daily to treat the symptoms. There is no specific vaccine for the virus; the medications are just helping to alleviate the fever and achiness.

Health experts say that despite the increased risk brought on by flooding, the chances are still pretty low that a person will contract the virus, since the peak season for the virus is almost over. Even so, people can be infected as late as October, and with the recent wet conditions, it's important to take precautions when outside.

Officials recommend that if you're going to be outside in areas where mosquitoes are likely, to wear long sleeves and pants. They also say that if possible, avoid outdoor activities like gardening at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately: fever, fatigue, headache, muscle weakness, rash, stiff neck, and changed mental state.