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Man’s Fight With West Nile Highlights Danger Of Virus

Mike Puccinelli Mike Puccinelli
Mike Puccinelli serves as a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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(CBS) – Health authorities are warning people to be on guard against mosquitoes this summer. Just this week, the first case of West Nile Virus was discovered in a pool of tainted water sampled in Hillside.

In this original report, CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli has the story of one man’s fight with virus.

It takes a couple tries, but Joe Tarvainis is able to lift himself to his walker now on his own. It’s a huge accomplishment because ten months ago he wasn’t sure he’d ever walk again after he was stricken with West Nile Virus.

“I was in upstairs in bed, went to get out and I fell out of bed. I couldn’t walk,” said Joe Tarvainis.

He spent the next 18 days in and out of intensive care.

“I felt like I had a stroke. I couldn’t raise my arm that high,” said Joe Tarvainis.

And he couldn’t speak, write, remember, see clearly, feed himself or stop shaking.

“His temperature went to 104.5 in the hospital. We thought we were going to lose him. They wanted to ventilate him,” said Cathy Tarvainis, Joe’s wife.

“They were basically saying I could die from this,” said Joe Tarvainis.

But Tarvainis fought back and went home from the hospital less than three weeks later.

When he was released from the hospital in November of 2012 he was unable to walk up or down any stairs. That meant for the next seven months, an 18 by 12 foot space essentially became his home.

Now with the help of therapy he hopes soon to ditch the walker for a cane. If all goes well, he plans to take his first unassisted in about two months. It’s one of the reasons why he’s going public with his story.

“I am showing people you can survive this,” Joe Tarvainis.

His wife says he also wants to show that it can happen to you or your loved one.

“You need to take this seriously. It can happen in your own backyard,” said Cathy Tarvainis.

And 2012 was the second worst ever in Illinois for West Nile. Last year 290 people contracted the virus and 12 people were killed. That’s a lot of death and illness that experts say could be prevented by insect repellant.