Man infected by West Nile virus recalls terrible experience

It’s a disease spread by mosquitoes that’s already killed three people in Iowa this year.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports it’s seeing the highest number of West Nile virus cases in Iowa in more than 15 years.

Doctors say they’ve diagnosed 73 Iowans with the disease so far this summer.

Three of those Iowans died, and health officials say the number of cases is expected to continue to go up until the first hard frost, which kill the mosquitoes.

Experts believe our hot and wet summer may be to blame for the spike.

One Iowa man who was infected last year says it’s a long road to recovery, but he’s defying the odds.
“I thought I had a bad flu, I was losing control of my legs,” said Jeff Menary, who is the chief executive officer of Grinnell Mutual.

It’s been almost a year to the day Menary went to the hospital.

“Ended up in intensive care for three weeks and had total paralysis from the neck down,” Menary said.
It was a Saturday and by Monday he was on a ventilator.

Turns out, Menary was infected with West Nile virus.

“I don’t even remember being bit,” he said.

“I had so many symptoms. I basically had meningitis, which damaged my spine, syphilitic with swelling of the brain and many other things. Your whole body chemistry is out of whack,” he said.

Today he’s back at work as CEO of Grinnell Mutual, a position he was set to take over in December.
“The culture we have here with our employees, we care for each other and it was given back to me,” Menary said.

Chief Operating Officer Dave Wingert was interim CEO while Menary was recovering.

“The organization, we were pretty well-prepared and everybody was marching to the same order that we were going but it was really how Jeff was going to come through this whole medical situation,” Wingert said.

Menary says he’s still pretty weak, regaining only 35 percent of his strength so far.But he says, when it comes to getting West Nile, he’s one of the lucky ones.

“I’m very fortunate a lot of them have cognitive issues and also severe depression issues and half have that residual forever. and I don’t have that,” Menary said.

Fewer than 1 percent of people infected with West Nile become critically Ill. Menary fell into that category.However, he returned back to work in March.

He says it’s still a challenge adjusting to a wheelchair in the workplace, he’s also developing carpal tunnel but he has no plans on retiring any time soon.