When Janet Lola was attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes in her Scottsdale back yard earlier this month, she thought the 30 to 40 bites that covered her body would be the worst of it.
But as those bites turned into welts and she began to develop flulike symptoms, it dawned on her that she may have West Nile virus.
Lola, 45, a nurse anesthetist, tested positive for the virus June 16 during a fiveday hospital stay, according to lab results released by the Mayo Clinic Hospital to Lola.
Public health officials could not confirm that Lola had contracted the virus, but 20 human cases have been confirmed in the county so
far this year, including five in the East Valley.
Lola said the doctors at the first hospital she visited, Scottsdale Healthcare Shea, didn’t take her seriously and sent her home after an overnight stay.
"I couldn’t eat, drink or walk by myself. They told me I didn’t fit the profile for West Nile virus, that I was too young," Lola said. "They gave me some pain pills and sent me home."
She was admitted into the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix the next day, and her blood cultures tested positive for the virus days later, she said.
The virus, which has no known treatment or vaccine, can usually be treated at home unless the patient can’t eat or drink. In Lola’s case, fluids needed to be administered intravenously for her to recover. She lost nine pounds in six days, she said.
Lola and her husband, Bob, said they were concerned for other infected people who might get brushed off by doctors.
"Physicians need to be more educated and openminded about looking for it," Janet Lola said. "People also have to be more proactive in their health care."
Attempts to reach Scottsdale Healthcare Shea officials for comment were unsuccessful.
Lola said it will be a while before she sits outside to play with her dogs again at their McCormick Ranch home. If she does, she vowed to wear long-sleeved clothing and insect repellent.
Doug Hauth, spokesman for the county’s Department of Public Health, said the possibility of people contracting the disease is very low and most people who do contract it never see symptoms.
"Those that are more susceptible are the elderly and those with a compromised immune system," Hauth said.
• Mosquito complaint hotline: (602) 506-6616. Get information on West Nile virus, report mosquito complaints.
• Mosquito fogging hotline: (602) 372-3000. Find out current locations of Vector Control’s nightly fogging operations.