West Nile virus returns to Long Island

At first, Bill Fastenau thought it was a case of COVID-19. It was September 2021 when the 60-year-old started feeling sick.

"I isolated myself in the basement," he said.

But when symptoms didn’t subside, Bill ended up in the hospital, never thinking what he had was the West Nile virus.

"Very bad headaches, neck pain, unable to get out of bed," Fastenau told FOX 5 NY. "I did have an experience with a bunch of mosquitos despite the fact that I had long sleeves, DEET, and all that stuff. What concerned me the most was that no one knew."

Fastenau said he had no idea until the Department of Health called days after he got home. Through hospital blood work they ultimately determined it was West Nile.

The electronics technician by trade was prescribed a high dose of steroids and was out of work for six weeks. When he did return, his memory was still off.

"I wasn’t really better until the end of March of this year," he said. "There were a lot of things I do every day that I was like ‘Hey man, how do I do this again’."

According to health experts, mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus are typically present from July through October, with peak activity during the month of August and September.

While 75% of people bitten by mosquitos with West Nile have little to no issues, the virus can be fatal for about 10% of people with severe cases and seniors are most at risk.

"West Nile virus can be very serious and very devastating, but the good news is that it doesn’t happen often," said Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist with Northwell Health. "Avoiding standing water, fixing screens, avoiding exposure to mosquitos is particularly important."

As for Bill who normally keeps to himself, he’s speaking out to make people more aware so they don’t wait as long as he did to see a doctor.

"I won’t get it again, obviously my family can," he said.

The New York City Health Department has two cases on record so far this year. There are three confirmed in Nassau, with no reported cases in Suffolk County to date.