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Ogden man becomes violently ill from West Nile Virus

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News, file)

WEBER COUNTY – If you don’t think you need to worry about the West Nile Virus, an Ogden woman says you need to think again.  She says her life has come to a screeching halt after her son became infected.

Just two weeks ago, Ryan Stuart was perfectly healthy.  His mother, Gina Vodopich, says he was a strong young man who was eager to start a new job.  All that changed when he started feeling ill.  At first, Vodopich says they tried the regular home remedies like over the counter medicine and soup.  However, the symptoms got a lot worse.

“He’s got this headache that’s debilitating and his neck hurts,” she says.

(Gina Vodopich showing pictures of her son, Ryan Stuart. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Stuart was in so much pain, he wanted to be left in a dark, silent room for a few days.  Shortly after, Vodopich says she got an incoherent phone call from Stuart, saying he couldn’t lift his head.  She rushed to his home and found him on the lawn, saying he collapsed while trying to mow it.

“So, my healthy son is now immobile.  He’s trembling with a six inch tremor and sweating profusely,” according to Vodopich.

Now, Stuart can’t walk, he can barely move and he has to eat through a straw.  Vodopich says he can barely talk and can only speak about ten words a day.

She says, “I asked him to do some hand signals and I said, ‘Can you do this?’ and he did.  But, after he does about six commands, he needs a good rest.”

Doctors say Stuart has meningitis and encephalitis, and he could be going through rehab for several months, although, there are reasons to be optimistic about his recovery.

“Yesterday, we had the first real breakthrough when they started putting him in a rehab.  By the first of the year, he’ll be able to go home,” Vodopich says.

The vast majority of people who get the virus won’t show any symptoms, and most people who do get sick will have mild symptoms.  However, in some cases, like Stuart’s, illness can be severe and sometimes fatal.  Communicable disease nurse Amy Carter says there’s no way to predict which person could become extremely ill.

“It can occur in any person of any age,” Carter says.

She says the best way to prevent getting the disease is to prevent being bit by mosquitoes.  Carter says people need to have repellent with Deet on them at all times.  If you don’t have that, she says you need to wear long sleeves and pants while it’s dark.