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Woman Speaks Out After Partner Experiences Processing Delay With West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus

EXCLUSIVE Woman speaks out county delays reporting partner's WNV exposure

On August 29th, we aired the first two reports of West Nile Virus in Riverside County. It turns out, there may have been a third case.

Joan Sotomayor, of Palm Springs, says her partner contracted the virus after they went for a morning walk in mid-July. They took their dogs on a walk near Gene Autry Trail. About a week later, he fell ill.

"It progressed very quickly within a few days to flu-like symptoms, with headache, high fever, stiff neck," Joan ​Sotomayor said.

She says her partner was rushed to the emergency room. Joan says he was misdiagnosed and sent back home with antibiotics, but the next day, it got worse. Her partner was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center. He stayed there for 5 days as doctors ran tests. 

"They released him July 29th and on that same day the culture came back positive for West Nile."

Joan says doctors found traces of the virus in her partner's spinal fluid. She then jumped into action to try to get the word out to the public. She began researching online and first contacted the California Department of Public Health. 

"I actually didn't know who to contact. I knew it wasn't being reported, but as a citizen I'd never really had to do this before," Sotomayor said.

After more research, Joan realized Riverside County's Department of Public Health would be the first agency to have the information. The state's agency said they were not receiving any reports from the county, and they later advised Joan to contact Riverside's department directly.

The couple was surprised to see that the first two reports of West Nile came out nearly a month later, but did not include their case.

Barbara Cole, Director of Disease Control with Riverside County Department of Public Health, says each case varies. She says the department must wait to receive certain criteria before it can make the report, and even that can take a minimum of 1 to 2 weeks.

"Are the records complete? Do we have to call and get more? Are we able to interview the person? And then if any test results are pending, then we have to wait on those test results," Barbara Cole said.

Barbara says not all cases are reported, but that doesn't mean they are not being counted.

Joan Sotomayor says the California Department of Public Health has since informed her that her partner's case will formally be reported.


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