Yukon man remains in coma after contracting West Nile virus

Charles Korstjens’ family thought the 54-year-old father of three was coming down with a cold.

Korstjens, who was suffering from kidney failure, had just completed one of his twice weekly dialysis treatments at Integris Baptist Hospital, when one of the technicians told the family on Sept. 18 that Korstjens was running a fever.

Kathy Korstjens, Charles’ wife, said they advised the family to watch his condition and to let them know if it got worse.

“We just thought it was a cold,” she said.

His daughter, Kristen, agreed.

He frequently had headaches and other minor symptoms after having gone through dialysis.

They weren’t really concerned … until his temperature refused to go down.

By the next day, his temperature was running 102.7.

The family decided it was time to head to the emergency room.

Charles Korstjens agreed. Something was wrong.

By the time he made it to the hospital, his fever was up to 103.8.

He was quickly admitted. Blood was drawn and sent off to the lab in hopes of coming up with a diagnosis.

Things kept getting worse, said Kristen. At one point, his fever topped 107.

On Sept. 21, he went into respiratory distress, prompting medical personnel to call a “code blue.”

By the next day he was in the intensive care unit under sedation.

He’s been in a coma since.

On Oct. 2, Kathy Korstjens got a call she wasn’t expecting.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said her husband had been diagnosed with a form of West Nile Virus.

The virus is passed along by infected mosquitoes.

Korstjens is the second case of West Nile to be reported in Canadian County this year.

The family believes he was infected either at his home or at a neighbor’s home.

They said both men are car enthusiasts and frequently are outside talking about cars.

The incubation period from bite until infection is about two weeks.

Both Kathy and Kristen say the timing is about right.

Headaches are among the first symptoms of the illness, and they say Charles reportedly was suffering from headaches the week before the fever set in.

“He is not awake,” said Kristen.

Now, they wait and pray.

“We are grasping at things; maybe it’s hope,” said Kathy.

Doctors have said they see improvement, the family says.

“Some are giving him hope, others are concerned about what condition he might be in when he does wake up,” Kristen said.

Kathy said they are hoping for a full recovery, but know they have a long road ahead of them.

“There have been people who have done it (fully recovered). We expected to do speech therapy and physical therapy,” she said.

“The main concern is getting him to wake up,” Kristen said.

As of Monday, Korstjens remained in a coma and was expected to receive his sixth blood transfusion sometime Tuesday.

“It’s hard to believe such a small bug can take out such a strong man,” said Kristen.

Both women urged residents to take precautions.

“Get rid of standing water. If there is water in the ditch, get a mosquito trap from the health department,” said Kristen.

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Symptoms of West Nile

No symptoms in most people: Most people  (8 out of 10) infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms.

Febrile illness (fever) in some people: About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Serious symptoms in a few people: About 1 in 150 people who are infected develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

  • Symptoms of severe illness include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.
  • Severe illness can occur in people of any age; however, people over 60 years of age are at greater risk. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk.
  • Recovery from severe illness might take several weeks or months. Some effects to the central nervous system might be permanent.
  • About 1 out of 10 people who develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system die.

Treatment

  • No vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for West Nile virus infection are available.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms
  • In severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care.
  • If you think you or a family member might have West Nile virus disease, talk with your health care provider.

In Oklahoma

  • There have 28 reported cases of West Nile Virus in Oklahoma. That number includes two cases in Canadian County.
  • There have been two deaths in Oklahoma from West Nile Virus.

 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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