City man out of hospital after viral encephalitis|[3/5/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 7, 2005

Warren County’s first known case of West Nile virus in 2005 came early this year, leaving a 35-year-old man in a coma for nearly a week.

“I was just really lucky,” said Chris Collins, who said his illness prevailed last weekend when he was celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife and 3- and 6-year-old sons.

“Folks need to watch their children,” Collins said late Friday, hours after being released from River Region Medical Center, where he had been in the intensive care unit for much of the week. “It really scares me that people, and particularly those with children, don’t know that this is out there.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Collins, who works at his family’s business, Rebel Welding and Industrial Supply, said he did not recall a mosquito biting him over the past few weeks.

“At least there wasn’t one that was a big deal, none that I can remember,” he said.

Collins’ father, Bill Collins, contacted earlier in the day, said his son first realized something was wrong when he “had this weird pain in his head that went down his neck and into his arm.”

He said the initial symptoms indicated he may have a heart problem. “Then his arm went numb,” Bill Collins said.

Chris Collins was in a coma and on a respirator until Tuesday.

Laboratory tests showed he had been infected with the West Nile virus and had developed encephalitis, a disease caused by the virus that can lead to brain swelling, seizures or death.

Nationally, 88 people died last year from West Nile virus. Four deaths were reported in Mississippi in 2004, two in 2003 and 12 in 2002.

There have been no deaths reported in Warren County from West Nile virus, but three cases of human infection have been reported here since 2002. Although most cases are reported during the summer, health officials warn that mosquitoes carrying the virus are present year round in the state and can infect anyone at any time.

“They told us there were about 52 varieties of virus that causes encephalitis,” Bill Collins said. “And we probably will never know which one it was.”

He said they were also told Chris Collins probably contracted the disease from a mosquito bite within the two weeks before he became ill.

Chris Collins was released from the hospital Friday afternoon, his father said.

Chris Collins’ primary physician, Dr. Daniel Edney, said Friday night that he could not discuss the case because of privacy concerns unless the patient gave his permission.