SAN ANTONIO -

While doctors have spread the word regarding higher risks associated with the West Nile virus among the very young and the very old, new efforts are underway to put all transplant recipients on alert for the potentially deadly illness.

Unlike the general population, transplant recipients, no matter the age of their transplant, remain at much higher risk for not only contracting the virus, but often suffering its lethal effects.

The Methodist Transplant Institute in San Antonio is alerting organ and bone marrow patients in particular because the medications that these patients take can make it hard to fight infections, should they receive a bite from an infected mosquito.

The Head of the Liver Transplant program at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital said, “Transplant patients and patients with decreased immune systems, can’t really fight the virus off. The virus will produce an injury to the brain that usually kills them.”

Liver transplant patient Patricia Delbosque, 32, received her new liver last year.

She said she’s done the research and is well aware of the risks of mosquito bites to her health.

“Once it gets around 6:30 or 7 p.m., I won’t go outside," she said. "I take very high precautions because of that.”

Her doctor warns that even if a transplant patient survives the attack on their central nervous system, the permanent damage done to the brain will have significant complications for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Foster is advising any transplant patient who is experiencing flu-like symptoms to return to the doctor and be screened for West Nile immediately.

For more information on the illness and ways to prevent infection, log onto www.cdc.gov/westnile or www.texastransplant.org.  

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