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BE man gets West Nile after mosquito bite at fair

By Staff | Sep 8, 2013

The threat of West Nile Virus just hit a whole lot closer to home for people living in Faribault County.

For the first time since 2007, a case of the virus was reported here. In fact, it was a resident of Blue Earth.

Mike Arends was the individual with the one reported case of West Nile Virus.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health website, 36 cases of the disease have been reported as of Sept. 3 in humans in Minnesota, since October 2012. Those cases spanned 19 counties and have already resulted in two deaths.

However, sometimes the signs of West Nile can be as simple as experiencing flu-like symptoms.

“Some people can get it and just feel ill for a few days,” Lorraine Arends says.

Often times those people will go on, unaware they have even been affected.

Such was not the case for Lorraine’s husband, Mike. He suffered from something known as West Nile encephalitis, which has much more severe side effects.

The symptoms of encephalitis include mental status changes, vomiting, sensitivity to light, altered reflexes, seizures and 15 percent of those who contract West Nile encephalitis can progress into a coma.

“Many people who get West Nile will not experience the serious complications he did,”?Lorraine says.

The couple suspects the virus was carried by a mosquito that bit him during the Faribault County Fair.

After the bite, he experienced the extreme symptoms that most people never have from West Nile.

He was brought into the local hospital where he was kept and then moved to Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

“He spent four weeks in Rochester,”?Lorraine adds.

Mike’s health began to turn around and he was brought home. And, it was at that point when he began to make real progress to recovery.

“It was when he came back from Rochester that he began eating and speaking again,”?Lorraine says. “He was able to do things again that normal people should be able to do.”

Now, Mike will stay in St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center for a few weeks in order for his health to continue improving.

“He’s getting so much better,”?she adds. “But, he still has some cognitive issues.”

Mike is lucky. In rare cases, people who contract West Nile Virus and experience such extreme symptoms, could result in death, especially with elderly people.

West Nile was first reported in Minnesota in 2002 when it affected people in all but one county.

In 2004 the number of cases began decreasing and it wasn’t until 2007 when another individual from Faribault County was reported to have contracted the virus.

The reported cases in Minnesota dropped off significantly again in the next couple years. In 2011 only two cases in the state were reported.

Just one year later, in 2012, 70 cases were recorded covering 34 counties and missing Faribault County.

Until now.

The 2013 statistics map on the Minnesota Department of Health shows Arends’s case. Freeborn and Blue Earth counties also show people have been infested with the virus there as well.