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Published July 25, 2013, 06:49 PM

GF man remembers surviving West Nile virus

As the season for West Nile virus heats up, Roger Brockmeyer, 70, Grand Forks, remembers how he contracted the virus at a church picnic seven years ago on Aug. 14.

By: Cynthia Johnson, WDAZ

As the season for West Nile virus heats up, Roger Brockmeyer, 70, Grand Forks, remembers how he contracted the virus at a church picnic seven years ago on Aug. 14.

"It was in the evening and there were tons of mosquitoes and I remember really getting bitten hard by one of the skeeters and two weeks later I came down with West Nile," he said.

He had a really bad headache at first, then lost his balance, he said. "Monday morning I woke up, tried to get out of bed and fell down. I couldn't even stand up and they rushed me to the hospital and my temperature soared to 105. And they weren't too sure I was going to make it."

Brockmeyer was in the hospital for two weeks, while his family and friends prayed for his recovery. He has a wife, four children and seven grandchildren.

"By the grace of God, a lot of prayers and supportive staff and a lot of good doctors I managed to survive it," he said.

North Dakota reported its first human case of West Nile virus Wednesday in Grant County. Minnesota reported its first human case Thursday in Murray County. In Grand Forks, where several crows have been found dead from the virus, has not had a human case. The disease is generally harmless to most people, but it can cause serious illness in less than 1 percent of people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2002, two people in Grand Forks County died from West Nile disease.

Brockmeyer said the virus changed his life forever.

"I lost peripheral vision pretty much and I've had to be more careful driving and my balance was affected, too, so every once in a while I'll stagger or sometimes even fall down so I've just had to be more careful," he said.

Brockmeyer was one of 137 people in the state to report having West Nile disease in 2006.

"It's a serious disease, and it really can be fatal so wear mosquito repellent, so I always kid my grandchildren," he said. "I tell them 'I don't care if it's Christmas Eve put on your mosquito repellent.'"

He said he knows he's lucky to have survived.

"I feel really really fortunate because I talked to other people who's spouses or loved ones didn't survive it and it's just devastating," he said.

The common symptoms of West Nile Virus include fever, headache, body aches and rash. People with more severe illness may experience symptoms such as stiff neck, confusion, paralysis, coma and even death. Fortunately, most people infected with West Nile virus develop the less severe form of the disease or develop no symptoms at all.

To protect yourself from the virus, officials say,

· Use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR 3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or permethrin when outdoors. Always follow the directions on the manufacturer’s label.

· Limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most likely to bite.

· When possible, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts while outside.

· Eliminate stagnant water and leaf debris in containers around homes where mosquitoes can lay their eggs (e.g., buckets, flowerpots, old tires, wading pools and birdbaths).

· Keep mosquitoes from entering your home by repairing screens in windows and doors.

· Keep the grass around your home trimmed.

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