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Victoria grandmother worries grandson has West Nile

By JR Ortega
Aug. 17, 2012 at 3:17 a.m.
Updated Aug. 18, 2012 at 3:18 a.m.

Justin Medellin assembles a race track while playing in his bedroom with his grandmother, Anna Stewart. After a trip to San Antonio, Houston and Galveston, Justin became ill with a high fever and underwent testing.

How to protect yourself

•  Use an insect repellent that contains DEET, picairidin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

•  Dress in long pants and sleeves when you are outside. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn is when mosquitoes are most active.

•  Drain any standing water where mosquitoes may breed. Old tires, clogged rain gutters and flowerpots tend to be the best breeding sites.

SOURCE: Texas Department of State Health Services

A 7-year-old boy may be Victoria's first case of West Nile virus this year.

However, tests are unclear about where or when the boy contracted the virus. He is in good health now.

The words "West Nile virus" was enough to scare the boy's grandmother, Anna Stewart.

Stewart, who is the primary caretaker of Justin Medellin, took her grandson to the emergency room after his fever spiked to 104 about a week ago.

Stewart, her husband and Justin had taken a week's vacation, visiting San Antonio, Houston and Galveston.

Stewart vaguely remembers Justin saying one night at dinner that something had bitten his leg. Stewart thinks Justin became sick while on vacation.

"It's sad and scary," Stewart said. "I've been seeing it on the news a lot. I was hearing about it before we found out."

It is difficult to confirm whether the Dudley Elementary School student has the virus or is the first in the Crossroads to have it, said Dr. Meena Parekh, his family doctor.

The recent news about the virus' outbreak in Texas has the public scared and wary. So far this year, 10 people have died of the virus in Dallas County.

"People should be aware that something like this is going around," Parekh said. "But they don't need to panic about it."

The confirmation confusion lies in the testing.

One test performed at the beginning of the week shows positive past West Nile virus infection in Justin's system; this means he could have contracted it weeks or months ago. Another test in two weeks will show whether the virus is in his system, or by that time, has left his system.

Because of this testing, Parekh is not comfortable saying Justin has West Nile virus.

"For him, he's totally OK. He's completely normal." Parekh said.

Only about 20 percent of the cases end up becoming severe cases, which include encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, and other neurological diseases.

"For most people, infections of West Nile virus will pass," she added, saying the symptoms of this are flu-like and usually disappear within days.

Also, West Nile virus is contracted mosquito to human - not human to human - she said.

Meanwhile, Justin is just Justin, the happy kid who enjoys spending a lot of time playing with toys in his room.

Justin walked carefully through a small tent pitched in his packed bedroom Friday, making sure not to step on any of his toy cars.

"I've got a brown one that looks like a cockroach," Justin said, reaching into an old shoe box to pull out one of his hundreds of Matchbox cars.

Justin is on antibiotics as a precaution for any bacteria infection in his system. Other than that, Stewart is closely monitoring him.

Bain Cate, the director of the Victoria City-County Health Department, said he knew of no confirmed cases of West Nile in the Crossroads.

A report from the Texas Department of State Health Services laboratory and confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are needed to make an accurate confirmation, Cate said in an email.

"The tests done by private laboratories are not always accurate," he said. "West Nile shouldn't increase in this area. ... The mosquito population has been rather minimal, if non-existent, lately."

In July, the city of Victoria sprayed for mosquitoes. Since then, the population of mosquitoes has gone down, said Doug Cochran, director of parks and recreation.

"Of course we're concerned about the West Nile virus," he said. "But we have no plans to spray."

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