West Nile

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mosquito-born virus claimed Flint in 2008

By Billy Davis

There was little doubt among Armistead Flint’s family he could still get around in 2008, even at age 84.

He had just returned from a 1,000-mile round trip with wife, Betty, before a mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus bit him sometime in late August of that year.  

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“He drove all the way. He said he was healthy, feeling fine,” remembered son Edwin Flint, a member of the Batesville family known for operating the historic hardware store on the Downtown Square.  

The elder Flint complained of flu-like symptoms — sore muscles, high fever — and entered Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford. It was September 2. He spent a month and a half in ICU, fighting an illness that crippled his breathing until he passed away October 17 — a 47-day battle.  

“He fought it to the end,” said Edwin. “He fought it long and hard.”

To date, Armistead Flint is the only West Nile fatality from Panola County.

Records from the Miss. Department of Health from 2002 to 2011 show Panola County has mostly escaped the virus, with Flint being one of three confirmed Panola cases and the only fatality.

Like other states, confirmed cases of West Nile virus are breaking previous records in Mississippi On Monday the Department of Health reported 140 confirmed cases in Mississippi this year.

There were 52 confirmed cases in 2011 and five deaths.

Last week, The Clarion-Ledger reported Mississippi had 120 confirmed cases this year and four deaths.
There have been no confirmed cases in Panola County so far this year according to state statistics.  

“People just don’t know what it’s like,” said Tom McCullar, who contracted West Nile in 2007 at his Mt. Olivet home known for its peach orchard.

He was picking a commercial crop of tomatoes at his home, and he suspects mosquitoes were breeding beneath the damp, irrigated plants.

McCullar remembers a fever so high his teeth were chattering uncontrollably in the middle of summer.

“I didn’t think I was going to live through it,” he recalled.

He still suffers from sore muscles and joints, and said the virus disrupted his attention span.

“It messes you up. There’s no way to describe the pain,” he said. “I’m still fighting it because it will never go away.”

Doctors in Oxford were unsure why McCullar was running a high fever and aching. A spinal tap was performed and the fluid was sent to the Centers for Disease Control, known as the CDC.

“The doctor called me at 10 O’clock at night and said, ‘You’re lucky to be here,’” McCullar, now 65, recalled.

When Armistead Flint was fighting the disease, McCullar said he visited him in the hospital, and visited his family to relay his experience with West Nile.

“If he felt like I did, he was better off leaving here,” McCullar said. “Nobody can know what it’s like unless they’ve been through it.”

Asked about support groups for survivors, McCullar said he knows of only one, located in Jackson.

The CDC reported 1,993 confirmed cases of West Nile nationwide through the first week of September – the highest on record since 1999. That number shows a 25-percent jump since late August.
Deaths from the disease jumped 32 percent nationwide compared to the previous week and totaled 87 for the year.