West Nile Crippling El Pasoans, Rising Temperatures Play Role

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Read Climate Central’s research report, “U.S. Faces a Rise in Mosquito ‘Disease Danger Days.’”
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By John Upton (Climate Central) and Kyle Jones (El Paso Times)

Elisa Sierra had just given birth to twins when she became infected with West Nile virus.

The infection left Sierra, who lives on the West Side of El Paso, Texas, with meningitis and damaged her brain.

Sierra is a clinical social worker who used to provide therapy. She’s in a similar line of work following her 2015 illness, but she doesn’t provide counseling any more because she’s no longer confident she can think quickly enough.

“You have to be able to think on your feet,” she said. “I have trouble remembering simple words.”

West Nile survivor Elisa Sierra at her home in El Paso, Texas.
Credit: Ruben R. Ramirez/El Paso Times

City data shows Sierra is one of about 100 people in El Paso who have been affected by a severe form of West Nile since 2000, which was around the time it was discovered in the U.S.

As El Paso and other governments work to reduce infections, a new analysis by Climate Central shows rising temperatures have increased the