Three years to the week after John Ureda contracted the West Nile virus that nearly killed him, a dead bird was found in Uredas yard in Shandon.
Ureda got word from state health officials Thursday that the bird tested positive for West Nile virus.
Ureda isnt worried for himself. Theoretically, hes immune. But he sees the coincidence as a reminder that people need to be aware of the virus.
The majority of people stung by West Nile-infected mosquitoes have no symptoms at all, and about 20 percent come down with flu-like symptoms. Fewer than 1 percent of people infected get West Nile encephalitis, which leads to life-threatening inflammation of the spinal cord or brain.
Ureda suspected that he first contracted the virus in the summer of 2010 in the same backyard he even says he remembered the mosquito bite that might have spread the virus to him.
Ureda ended up with an even rarer disease, West Nile poliomyelitis, which hits the nervous system harder. He spent 17 weeks in hospitals and still uses a wheelchair to get around. He was lucky to survive.
Its no surprise then that were more aware of dead birds than most people, Ureda said.
The bird found near his wheelchair ramp was a chipping sparrow, a species not known to carry West Nile virus. But Ureda called the state Department of Health and Environmental Control anyway. Workers in the infectious disease department know Ureda and decided to test the bird.
It was at least the second bird this summer in Columbia to test positive for the disease another was found a few miles away two weeks ago.
The bottom line is the West Nile virus is around the Shandon area, Ureda said.
Actually, its throughout the state, as it has been every summer for the past decade. DHEC has reported positive tests for West Nile this summer in humans in Richland, Lexington, Aiken, Berkeley and Charleston counties, a bird in Richland County, other animals in York and Anderson counties and a mosquito pool in Beaufort County.
In late July, the city of Columbia began spraying for mosquitos in a two-mile radius of Harden Street.
Ureda offers this message to others: If you do start getting sick, pay attention to your symptoms. Seek treatment quickly if you have high fever and confusion, which often indicates the central nervous system problems of the more serious West Nile diseases. Symptoms can take up to two weeks after a mosquito bite to show up.