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Video: Watch Grace's Story
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West Nile Victim Joins County's Fight Against Virus

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Grace Oberst

April 24, 2008

All it took was a small drip from an outside water pipe to attract mosquitoes to Grace Oberst’s window screen. Before she knew what hit her, 67-year-old Grace, an El Cajon resident, was bitten and immediately came down with flu-like symptoms.

“Days later, I remember sitting on my back patio and thinking I’ve never felt this way before. I felt dazed and I knew something must really be wrong,” said Grace.

Her face was flushed, her head and back hurt.

“My daughter told me that I was vomiting for two days, although I have no memory of that.”

The timing was terrible. Grace’s husband had just suffered a stroke, and when he saw her admitted to the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest.

Grace’s condition grew worse, and she lost consciousness for 12 days. Doctors struggled for a diagnosis. Then, Grace’s son-in-law was watching the news, and saw a story about the County’s West Nile virus education program. He demanded that doctors test her for West Nile.

Sure enough, she tested positive and began her slow recovery. Grace’s husband also recovered.

Now, Grace is helping the County to educate the community about the deadly disease. She was one of three survivors who spoke during a County media event April 24 at Norman Park Senior Center in Chula Vista.

“My message to the community is don’t take anything for granted. Don’t take chances, have your guard up, use repellant. Be aware. Don’t think that this can’t happen to you.”

In nearly all locally acquired human West Nile virus cases, mosquitoes were found in backyard water sources near the victims’ homes.

West Nile virus has already been detected in the county earlier this year than in previous years. Last year, there were the 15 locally acquired cases, and of those, 14 cases were people over the age of 50.

While individuals of all ages can contract West Nile virus with devastating short and long-term results, seniors are at greatest risk for severe illness and death. For more information about West Nile virus, call the County’s West Nile virus information line at 888-551-INFO (4636) or visit