The year's first case of West Nile virus was confirmed in southern Minnesota on Thursday, and a local broadcasting legend knows the potentially-deadly, mosquito-borne virus can cost much more than a doctor's visit.
"Everything hurt," Ken Speake said.
As a television reporter for nearly 30 years, Speake was a master at telling other people's stories, but he never imagined his own story would involve a tiny insect that cost him his career.
"To think that a mosquito could have caused me to be, essentially, a different person … makes me angry," Speake admitted.
Ten years ago, Speake was mowing his back yard in Maple Grove and was suddenly swarmed by mosquitos.
"They just came out in a huge flood, and I had to run," Speake recalled.
A couple of weeks later, he was diagnosed with West Nile Virus, which had only arrived in Minnesota the year before.
"It was just a huge pain, and I really didn't care if I lived or died," Speak told FOX 9 News. "I just wanted it to be over with."
Speake suffered minor brain damage because of the virus, and it eventually forced him into retirement.
"When I went back to work, I couldn't do the job anymore," he said.
Even now, Speak says his eyes are sensitive to light and he can get distracted easily.
"I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. On the other hand…" he quipped.
The good news is that Speake's doctors told him you can only get West Nile once, but he says once was certainly enough and he hopes others will avoid mosquitos as best they can.
PREVENT MOSQUITO BITES
The Minnesota Department of Health reminds residents that it is possible to cut the risk of contracting West Nile virus by exercising the following precautions:
- Use a repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Use permethrin products on clothing
- Minimize outdoor activities at dusk and dawn
2013 WEST NILE SEASON
West Nile cases usually crop up between July and August, and Department of Health officials confirmed the first human case of West Nile virus on Thursday after testing a young man in southwestern Minnesota.
FIRST CASE CONFIRMED: http://bit.ly/16gwuHr
"The victim had what we call West Nile fever, which is a less severe form of West Nile disease," explained David Neitzel. "The more severe version, encephalitis or meningitis, can be life-threatening."
The young man is expected to recover, and Neitzel said that the long, wet spring may limit the number of cases seen this year.
"Everyone hated the snow persisting into May, but it helped shorten the growing season for mosquitos and the virus," he said.