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Area West Nile patient shares recovery struggles and warning

Posted: 5:26 PM, Sep 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-09 18:26:08-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The number of people infected with West Nile this year is down compared to last year but officials say that doesn't mean we're in the clear. In fact, we are just getting started. Morning Anchor Courtney Johns talked with a man who was infected last year and is still on the path of recovery.

What may look like toys to you are tools for Steve Mainelli to build his body so he can get back to managing construction projects.

"If anything else, it's just a real positive attitude builder to be able to get into the water and see that kind of movement again. That's one of the reasons I like the pool therapy so much," says Mainelli.

Last year, Mainelli contracted West Nile Virus.

"It could have happened at work. I spend a lot of time at construction sites. It could have happened at home. I spent a lot of time on our back deck and we have a trail network we do a lot of hiking on and so it could have happened anywhere," he says.

According to the Center for Disease Control about 1-in-150 people infected with West Nile develop a serious or fatal illness.

Symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Disorientation
  • Tremors
  • Numbness

For Mainelli, it started as a backache and escalated to paralysis, respiratory failure and brain damage.

"Most of what I know about that time is what my family told me," he says.

Last year, Douglas County had a record number of West Nile cases with 71 reported cases. So far this year, the county has just one.

While experts can't say with certainty why we're seeing a drop...we aren't in the clear just yet. West Nile season usually peaks in August and September...the same time of year Mainelli contracted the virus.

Doing physical therapy at Madonna Rehabilitation, he can't help but think about the one tool he almost never used.

"The only time I worried about mosquitoes was if the mosquitoes were really bad at night," he says.

Now he hopes his message can save someone's life.

"Wear your bug spray...don't take a chance, wear you bug spray," he says.