Iowa man recalls experience with West Nile virus

Experience required brief hospital stay and therapy after contracting virus

Posted: Aug 9, 2018 10:16 PM

MASON CITY, Iowa - On Wednesday, KIMT reported the news that a case of West Nile virus was confirmed. Today, we bring you the story of a man who contracted the virus 12 years ago, and is now speaking out about his experience.

Joel Heuberger, who lived in Mason City at the time, was in Des Moines visiting family at the time he came in contact with a misquito that gave him the virus. He started feeling lower back pain at first, but then it got worse from there - to the point that he needed to be life-flighted to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a month-long hospital stay. Afterwards, he was discharged, though he had physical and occupational therapy sessions for a time, and was in a wheelchair for about a year.

He says that getting back to work and physical activity is helping him gain his strength back.

"Keeping busy and keeping active. If I had not been motivated, I'd probably still be in a wheelchair."

In addition, he says he had a good support group.

"I had lots of family and friends come up there and afterwards when I got back to health and stuff."

Heuberger says that there is one lingering symptom - he still has foot drop in his left foot, though he does wear a brace while on the job.

According to Mayo Clinic, most people infected with West Nile virus have no signs or symptoms. About 20% develop a mild infection, and less than 1% of infected people experience a serious neurological infection that includes symptoms of partial paralysis or muscle weakness, seizures, and high fever.

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