Woman's heat rash turns out to be West Nile virus

Posted at 7:03 PM, Oct 18, 2016

SAN DIEGO - A City Heights mother said what she thought was a heat rash turned into a battle for her life after a West Nile virus diagnosis.

"I wouldn't wish this upon anybody," 40-year-old Marie Costanza said from her hospital bed in Hillcrest.

More than a week ago, Costanza noticed a rash on her leg that spread to other parts of her body within a few days. That's when she became sick.

"Fever and chills, she started shaking. She couldn't get off the couch," said her husband Sam Romero.

They thought it was the flu and she took cold medicine for a few days, but her condition didn't get better. A trip to the emergency room led to testing and a stunning diagnosis of West Nile virus.

"[I] couldn't believe it. She is very healthy. It was so scary; a one-in-a-million to contract and to be affected like she was," said Romero.

Romero said the virus is sitting in her spine and impacting her brain function.

"I get confused and have to think for a few minutes before I can ask a question," said Costanza.

Romero said his wife was likely bitten in the back patio of her City Heights apartment. Mosquitoes are not unusual, but he noticed an uptick in the amount a few weeks ago.

A San Diego County spokesperson said West Nile virus is present region-wide, and there is no cluster of cases in City Heights, so there are no plans to spray specific areas right now.

Romero is hopeful she'll recover because she appears to be responding well to treatment after a week in the hospital. It's unclear what the long-term effects will be.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help with her medical bills.