OKLAHOMA CITY — According to the State Health Department, 42 Oklahomans have been hospitalized with confirmed cases of West Nile virus.
Three people have died of the disease so far in 2012.
Experts agree 2012 has been the worst on record in Oklahoma for West Nile virus.
The last major outbreak of the disease was in 2008.
Thats when 54-year-old John Baker contracted the disease while on a family reunion in northeastern Oklahoma.
Baker’s symptoms first manifested suddenly during a trip to the mall.
He remembers an out-of-body, near-death experience.
“My eyes rolled back in my head. I started sweating profusely and I started having seizures. The next thing I know I’m out of my body, looking down, and these people are just scurrying around me. It was surreal,” Baker said.
Experts say West Nile manifests itself differently in each victim, as it attacks the central nervous system in all.
For a handful of victims it is fatal.
For patients like John Baker it is life-changing.
He was a professional remodeler.
West Nile virus was devastating to Baker’s business as he spent 16 months in rehab, recovering from West Nile.
Baker’s long-term side effects have been profound; nerve damage, heat sensitivity, diabetes and memory loss.
One other unusual effect, according to Baker’s wife LeAnn, is his new love of fashion.
LeAnn Baker said her husband always hated shopping and going to the mall.
However, he emerged from his battle with the disease as a lover of shoes with a flair for fashion.
Baker is also more introverted than he used to be.
“It is certainly an unusual disease,” LeAnn Baker said.
“I feel fear. I feel fear and I feel sympathy for those who are getting it,” Baker said.
His warning to healthy Oklahomans; protect yourself and your family from this deadly disease.