BALTIMORE (WJZ) — One mosquito bite can change your life forever. This year is already the worst in a decade for West Nile Virus and now a new mutation is making the disease even more dangerous.
Adam May shows what West Nile did to one man and asks whether anyone can stop it.
Mike Goldsmith struggles to stand, a test of his strength and will. It was all triggered by a mosquito bite.
“I went out and cut the grass. That’s all I did,” Goldsmith said. “I cut the grass a thousand times.”
One bug carrying West Nile Virus left him partially paralyzed and nearly killed him.
“It’s a Russian roulette,” he said.
The 68-year-old retired Baltimore County school administrator shared with WJZ how a random mosquito bite landed him in a nursing home. The fight for his life started a year ago.
“I had no idea what I had, but I couldn’t breathe and I started to get panicky,” Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith called 911. He passed out before an ambulance got him to the hospital. He was in and out of consciousness for weeks.
“What was really scary was there were a number of times I thought I was going to die,” he said.
His lungs were overcome by phlegm. The anxiety even triggered a heart attack.
“I was asking questions. Is there an antidote, a treatment? `No, we just have to see how things do on a day-to-day basis,'” he said.
“West Nile is a vector-borne disease,” said Kimberly Mitchell, State Health Department.
Mitchell says 2012 has been one of the worst years for West Nile. Despite efforts to spray mosquito-infested neighborhoods with pesticides, 45 Marylanders have gotten sick and four have died.
“I would say it’s very unpredictable. It’s a disease we know we’re gonna see every year but can’t say how much or how intense it will be,” Mitchell said.
Since West Nile first appeared in the U.S. 13 years ago, health officials studying the virus have learned mild winters and hot summers seem to make it worse. Birds usually carry the virus and mosquitoes transfer it to humans.
“Eighty percent of people who get West Nile have no symptoms,” Mitchell said. “A little under 20 percent get West Nile fever. Depending on how bad it is, they may have tremors, seizures or paralysis in some of their limbs.”
That’s exactly what Goldsmith is battling.
“It’s not like a cold. You can’t take medication and be fine; you may lose a year or two of your life,” he said. “I will walk, one way or another. I will walk.”
Anne Arundel County has the highest number of West Nile cases in Maryland.