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Oklahoma City man continues his slow recovery from West Nile virus

Bob Matthews, a 77-year-old retired Heritage Hall principal, is working to recover from the neurological effects of West Nile virus. He has been at an Oklahoma City rehabilitation center for the past few weeks and hopes to be home by Christmas.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: October 9, 2012

With the help of a physical therapist, Bob Matthews can stand up.

For a man who could barely wiggle his toes two months ago, this is good news.

“Hopefully, eventually, I will be able to walk,” Matthews, 77, said from his bed at an Oklahoma City recovery center.

“They don't know yet, but they've given me that hope. Our goal is to be home by Christmas, and I've been told that is not an unreasonable hope, but they can't guarantee it.”

Matthews' story is one of many.

He and 163 other Oklahoma residents have contracted West Nile virus this year, the largest number the state has seen since the virus entered the U.S. in 1999.

Even with much uncertainty in his future, Matthews considers himself lucky to be in recovery.

The state Health Department has confirmed nine people have died because of West Nile-related complications.

As Oklahoma moves into cooler weather, mosquitoes eventually will go into hibernation.

In recent days, parts of Oklahoma experienced the first autumn freeze, but one freeze doesn't mean all mosquitoes, which carry the disease, are now in hibernation, said Laurence Burnsed, a state Health Department epidemiologist.

“It's important for people to know that although we are in fall time, there are still warmer temperatures occurring that could still influence the potential risk of West Nile virus,” he said.

Oklahoma's West Nile virus season peaked in August and has been on the decline since.

However, it's still important for residents to continue using mosquito repellent and wearing long shirts and pants when enjoying the outdoors. Also, it's important to remove stagnant water from around the home, for it can serve as a mosquito breeding ground.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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