Updated: Thursday, 23 Aug 2012, 10:45 AM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 22 Aug 2012, 6:29 PM EDT
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - A face and name can be placed with the first case of West Nile virus reported in Allen County.
Darla Keller, 55, is one of 10 human cases confirmed by the Indiana State Department of Health. She spent 15 days in the hospital after contracting the virus from a mosquito bite received while working in a major retailer’s garden center.
Keller’s symptoms began with a rash that developed from her feet all the way up her body to her face. The rash did not itch and diminished after a couple days.
It took six days of fever and shakes before one scary symptom sent Keller to the emergency room; she lost vision in her right eye.
Once admitted to the hospital and tested a doctor told Keller she could have died from her illness if she had waited another day to get medical attention. Keller described the pain she suffered from the virus as unimaginable.
“It was crushing and it was relentless. It was the most horrible pain I’ve ever been through in my life,” Keller said.
Keller was released but was not immediately out of the woods. Lasting neurological damage required a daily diet of six medications to treat quivers and vision problems among other issues.
She said the experience has changed her life and hoped no one would go through the same health scare.
“It’s not just a little fever and it’s gone; believe me, it is not that. It is life-changing,” Keller said.
Keller suggested everyone heed the health department’s warnings and take proactive measures to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
In her own garden, the certified master gardener has always taken several steps to prevent breeding mosquitoes, she said. Those include checking every pot outside for standing water in the mornings and burning incense, candles and a fire pit each evening to ward off the bugs.
For an overall look at the West Nile outbreak in pictures, click here.