1 Mosquito Bite Ruined This Football Player’s Life and It’s Showing No Signs of Slowing Down

Mosquito bites are so common that it’s easy to forget they can sometimes transmit deadly diseases. But in recent years, the West Nile virus has spread tremendously, and every summer we’re warned about West Nile season in North America.

Unlike the mosquito-spread Zika virus, many cases of the West Nile virus are minor — but some are anything but. It’s terrifying to think that a single mosquito bite could cause so much damage, but here’s one extreme example of what the virus can do.

Who is Paul Lacoste?

Paul Lacoste

Former football player Paul Lacoste | Mississippi Public Broadcasting via YouTube

Paul Lacoste is a former football player, best known for his time with the B.C. Lions in Canada. He also played briefly for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2000 season. After his retirement from professional sports, he became a personal trainer and a fitness guru, until his recent illness slowed him down.

Next: The mosquito bite that changed everything

The first signs of trouble

woman holding her leg

This must’ve been painful. | iStock.com/kwanchaichaiudom

It was summer 2012 when Lacoste first started showing symptoms from a mosquito bite he doesn’t remember getting. He started getting headaches and neck pain, he felt exhausted, and he noticed his upper right quadriceps were swollen. His doctor ran tests and ordered surgery to drain hematomas (pooled blood) from his leg.

Next: Unfortunately, it took awhile to figure out what was happening to Lacoste. 

The diagnosis

Doctor and nurses wheeling patient

He was diagnosed with West Nile. | iStock.com/Sam Edwards

Lacoste recalls a terrifying incident that first summer, when he was walking into his house with his sons (then ages 2 and 5) and felt a sharp, sudden pain in his thigh muscles. He started having full blown muscle convulsions the next morning and was rushed to the hospital with a fever that wouldn’t subside. It was so bad, Catholic priests would stop at his room to pray.

At last, Lacoste was diagnosed with West Nile. And doctors told him the only reason he’d survived as long as he had was because of the physical shape he was in.

Next: Sadly, the diagnosis didn’t bring much relief.

6 years later, he’s still hurting

lower back pain

The pain is still excruciating. | globalmoments/iStock/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the diagnosis didn’t bring much relief for Lacoste. To this day, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound former linebacker is often in so much physical pain that he cries. The virus has attacked his spine and central nervous system, so he still has occasional partial paralysis. And he sometimes gets so tired he’ll fall asleep in his car or at the gym where he still trains.

Next: Here’s the terrifying truth about West Nile.

West Nile can be extremely severe

Senior woman in hospital

If you’re over 60, you’re at a higher risk for West Nile. | iStock.com/shironosov

Here’s a bit of good news: In the majority of cases, people affected with the West Nile virus will never show any symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will have a fever with headaches, body aches, joint pain, and possible vomiting and diarrhea, but nearly all of them will make a full recovery, minus some lingering fatigue.

But some people aren’t so lucky. In severe cases, West Nile causes severe symptoms, such as high fever, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, numbness, vision loss, and paralysis. People over age 60 are at the highest risk, but severe cases can happen to anyone.

Next: Lacoste isn’t the only one to have his life wrecked by the virus.

These extreme cases happen more than we’d like to admit

pest control worker

Take every step you can to avoid mosquitoes. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

While statistics may be in your favor when it comes to contracting West Nile, you should take any possible precautions to avoid getting it because it can take years to recover from — if you ever do. Missy Moss, a California teacher, knows that all too well. The disease traveled to her spinal cord and brain, leaving her paralyzed.

Next: More bad news about mosquito-spread illnesses

The disease, along with others, is spreading at an alarming rate

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

Vector-borne diseases are on the rise. | Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

Mosquitoes and other vectors (pathogen-spreading bugs) have been passing diseases on to humans for many years, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed cases of vector-borne diseases jumped substantially from 2004 to 2016, meaning they’re on the rise.

Because you can’t prevent mosquito bites entirely, the best way to prevent West Nile is to use mosquito repellent, wear long sleeves, take appropriate measures to keep vectors out of your home, and avoid hiking and camping in areas known for excessive mosquitoes.

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