West Nile Virus season is upon us

Jun 8, 2018

Jessica Howling Wolf (at the lectern), her son Benny and daughter Ophelia at a state Health Department news conference (6/7/18).
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

With summer comes mosquitoes – and that could mean West Nile Virus.

That mosquito-borne disease has been reported in North Dakota since 2002. The state Health Department says while most people will either have no symptoms, or a mild case of the disease, there are some who will develop West Nile neuro-invasive disease, which can cause high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, altered mental status – and death.

Benny Howling Wolf of Twin Buttes contracted the disease in 2016. Since that time, he’s been in a coma a couple of times, and has to go to three therapy sessions three times a week. Benny is wheelchair bound. Benny fell ill on a Friday night. He was taken to Hazen, then air-flighted to Bismarck and eventually to Fargo. He wasn’t tested for West Nile until the following Monday.

His mother, Jessica Howling Wolf, said Benny spent two and a half months in the hospital. Jessica said Benny is a survivor.

"We'd like to see testing for West Nile done at the clinic level, if the provider or a patient thinks they might have West Nile," Howling Wolf told Bismarck reporters. "There are different ranges of signs of it -- fever, body aches, rash."

Howling Wolf said Benny's story is being shared.

"He's a voice for the voiceless," Howling Wolf said. "You are not alone. We are here to help you."

The Health Department is advising people to take the necessary precautions – use mosquito repellant with DEET, wear long sleeves and pants – especially during the hours from dusk until dawn, eliminate pools of water around your home, and make sure the grass is mowed.