North Shore woman spreading word about West Nile

September 14, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Susie Hilbrant learned about the disease through personal experience.

In 2005 , Hilbrant, a single mothers, was infected with the most severe case of West Nile Virus, the neuro invasive form. She spent six days in the hospital and was released without any kind of diagnosis.

The 54-year-old is now speaking out and doing public service announcements for the Cook County health department.

"I was very scared. I had four children, and I did not know what was happening.. I was out of it. I could not function. I needed help to move around my house and just remembering things. My immune system was compromised," Hilbrant said.

The Winnetka resident says her life has changed dramatically.

"Because everything atrophied. I had to relearn to take my steps," she said. "I live a very measured life. I try very hard to pay attention to my body. I am very careful because I do not know if this can re-emerge in my system. A doctor cannot tell me that either."

The Cook County Department of Public Health wants everyone to know that West Nile Virus is still circulating, and it is important to take preventative measures.

"There is a death in suburban Cook County. We have 62 human cases, and one who has passed," said the department's Amy Poore.

"I am aware of what my body went through and what I had to come back from," said Hilbrant.

Experts say there is no treatment for West Nile Virus infection, but there is supportive care. The risk of West Nile Virus, they say, is not over until after the first frost when mosquitoes die off.

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