Father: Son Not Tested for West Nile in Time

Latest El Paso victim was 25-years-old

EL PASO, Texas - Arturo Hernandez, Jr., 25, made three trips to the emergency room and had a seizure before being tested for the West Nile Virus.

Hernandez died this week in a Lubbock rehabilitation clinic after battling the virus for more than a month.

He is the fifth confirmed West Nile Virus death in El Paso County this year.

"He was complaining about stomach pains," Arturo Hernandez, Sr. said about his son's illness. "He was vomiting and had diarrhea -- kind of flu-like symptoms."

Hernandez, Sr. says his son was first taken to Sierra Providence Hospital East on August 14, after his symptoms seemed to be getting worse.

He says his son told doctors in the emergency room of his ailments, and said he had a fever, trouble breathing and that the back of his head was hurting.

Hernandez, Sr., says doctors told his son he had a stomach virus and prescribed antibiotics and pain medication.

"That was it," Hernandez, Sr., said. "They didn't do much else expect give him medication send him home."

The next day, Hernandez, Jr., went to the emergency room at Del Sol Medical Center.

By this time his condition had gotten worse, his father says.

"I didn't even recognize him," Hernandez, Sr., said.

He says his son got the same response from doctors there. He was again diagnosed with a stomach virus and send home.

The ambulance was called on the third day, and Hernandez, Jr., was transported to Sierra Providence East once again.

Upon arrival, Hernandez, Jr., went into a seizure.

The virus had spread throughout his body and into his brain, his father said.

Hernandez, Jr., was put into an induced coma for one week.

When he awoke, he couldn't speak and his movements were altered due to the viral damage.

Hernandez, Sr., said his son did not have insurance, and there was not a rehabilitation hospital in El Paso that could take him.

He was sent to Lubbock for rehabilitation, where he eventually died from the virus.

"If they know that people are walking in with symptoms like that, and they know what's going on with the West Nile, they should change their protocol if someone walks in like that," Hernandez, Sr., said.

A spokesman for the city's health department says there is no directive for doctors on when they should perform the serum West Nile Antibody IgG/IgM panel -- the West Nile Virus test.

"[the decision to test is] based upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines," a statement from Del Sol Medical Center reads. "Preliminary diagnosis is often based on the patient's clinical features, places and dates of travel, activities, and epidemiologic history of the location where infection occurred."

Hospitals across Texas announced they had halted performing the test for the West Nile Virus, earlier this month.

They said it was due to a nation-wide shortage of the West Nile Virus testing kits, brought on by the heavy incidence of the virus this year.

Two major testing labs, Lab Corp and Quest, were unable to perform the tests and were telling hospitals not to send any more blood samples.

University Medical Center contracts Quest to perform its West Nile Virus testing. A spokesman from UMC says they were never told of a shortage of test kits by the company, no were they advised to halt testing.

A spokeswoman for Del Sol Medical Center was unable to say the name of the company the hospital uses to perform West Nile Virus tests. She says they were never told to stop testing for the virus.

A spokeswoman for Sierra Providence East was also unable to obtain the name of the laboratory the hospital contracts to do its testing. She said at no time were there any suspension of virus testing at the hospital.

Quest laboratories announced only today that the company is able to begin West Nile Virus testing at full capacity again.

Lab Corp media relations representatives did not return phone calls or emails regarding the company's test shortage prior to publication.

"The doctor said he's got a 90-percent chance," Hernandez, Sr., said. "He said he was going to pull through it."

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