JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The same day the Florida Department of Health in Duval County announced a seventh human case of West Nile virus, one of the patients recovering from the virus described his experience to News4Jax.
Renard Weaver, a girls basketball coach at First Coast High School, said he doesn't remember being bitten by the mosquito that gave him West Nile virus.
He said that living in Florida, he’s often around water, a favorite place for mosquitoes that can carry the disease.
About a month ago, the 36-year-old coach and personal trainer got a bad headache that he thought was a migraine.
Weaver tried to push through for almost two weeks until he finally ended up in the emergency room.
“What I thought was a headache was actually the virus affecting my brain,” Weaver said.
After many tests, doctors diagnosed Weaver with West Nile virus. Weaver said he had a rash on his forearm when he first started feeling bad. Looking back, that was one of his first signs of West Nile virus.
Weaver spent six days in the hospital fighting symptoms of dizziness, weakness, vertigo and hearing loss. He lost 23 pounds, and the disease affected his entire nervous system.
The trainer at Pearson Fitness in Fruit Cove used to lift a 125-pound dumbbell in each hand. Now, his left side is so weak, he can only lift 15 pounds.
And walking to the end of the street is about as active as he can get, but he’s getting stronger and healing every day.
“I guess my best example is if you saw 'Space Jam,' it’s like the monster zapped your powers away and took all the strength,” Weaver said. “Obviously, naturally, in six days that doesn’t happen that much, but it’s obvious my nervous system is linked up to lifting weights.”
Duval County West Nile cases
Source: News4Jax records
Right now, the West Nile virus rate in Duval County is the highest it's been since 2012, when an outbreak brought 29 cases, including one fatality. This year's numbers more than doubled all the years in between.
Weaver said knowing what could have happened, he's thankful for all he is able do.
“I realize from the research, it could have been worse, because a lot of people are in comas or ended up being paralyzed or stuff like that,” Weaver said. “I think that me working out and eating healthy and being so strong is what helped me.”
Weaver said he’ll continue to rehab himself hopefully back to complete health.
Doctors said they can't give an exact timeline for Weaver's full recovery because it varies for each patient. Weaver has been out of work for a few weeks. He hopes to return to coaching as soon as next week.
The Duval County Health Department said because it's impossible to tell if mosquitoes near you are carrying West Nile virus, it's important to try to avoid misquotes altogether by draining standing water and getting rid of anything that might collect water.