LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A Lafayette man who has contracted West Nile Virus had been staying at his camp in Hackberry for the three weeks before he became extremely ill.
While the State Health Department confirmed the first case of West Nile in Lafayette this year, officials say they don’t release patient information.
Steve Fruge’s wife, Barbara, though, confirms he was diagnosed with West Nile Virus.
Although he lives in Lafayette, his family and friends say he loves fishing and barbecuing at his camp in Hackberry. Barbara says that’s where he’d been for about three weeks when the 63-year-old suddenly developed high fever and difficulty walking.
Barabara says mosquitoes were bad around that time. While hospitalized in Lafayette, his wife says he was diagnosed with West Nile disease.
Officials say neuroinvasive disease infects the brain and spinal cord and can lead to paralysis, brain damage and death.
Lake Charles neurologist Dr. Reynard Odenheimer says neuroinvasive is the more serious illness from West Nile virus. “The neuroinvasive which involves the central nervous system, and can give meningitis or encephalitis. It’s the same organism. It’s just a matter of which tissue is affected. Encephalitis and meningitis is potentially deadly and can leave residual problems. It’s a much scarier beast,” he says.
The milder infection is West Nile fever in which people experience flu-like symptoms.
Odenheimer says most people infected never know. He says, “Eighty percent of people infected with West Nile don’t have any symptoms at all," he said. “West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes, and it is most prevalent during mosquito season, which in Louisiana is pretty much all year, but there are times that are worse."
Barbara says Steve is having neurological problems and weakness but is improving slowly; a little bit better each day.
Weekly State Health surveillance indicates as of week 34 of 2018, seven new West Nile Virus infections have been reported, including four cases of neuroinvasive disease (NID) —one in Caddo Parish, one in East Baton Rouge Parish, one in Lafayette Parish, and one in St. Tammany Parish.
There are two new cases of fever, one in East Baton Rouge Parish and one in St. Tammany Parish. There’s also one new asymptomatic (no symptom) cases in Washington Parish.
The total is 67 cases for the year with 39 neuroinvasive, 18 fever, and ten Asymptomatic. The department reports three West Nile Virus deaths for 2018, so far.