Former Tempe police detective dies of West Nile virus

Nathan Ryberg
Nathan Ryberg(AZ Family)
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 12:18 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – The former Tempe police detective who was admitted to the hospital about two weeks ago because of West Nile virus has died. Nathan Ryberg’s wife said on Monday, Sept. 20, Ryberg had been in a medically induced coma since doctors admitted him.

Sgt. Dan Masters of the Tempe Police Department posted on Facebook about Ryberg’s death Thursday morning, Sept. 22. The Tempe Police Department followed with a post of its own, including a link to the GoFundMe account for the Ryberg family that Masters set up.

According to Masters, Ryberg and his wife, Lori, fostered 30 kids, adopting seven of them. After 31 years with the Tempe Police Department, Ryberg retired six months ago. “Nathan and Lori are all that is good in the world,” Masters wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Lori Ryberg told Arizona’s Family that she is terrified that one of the 13 Ryberg children will come down with West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquito bites.

Shortly before Ryberg landed in the hospital, a Chandler family shared a warning about West Nile virus. John Warren died a couple of weeks after an infected mosquito bit him. On Wednesday, the Mayo Clinic said it is seeing more neuroinvasive cases of West Nile. That’s the worst form of infection, causing swelling of the brain (encephalitis) or tissue around the brain (meningitis).

“The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis,” explains Maricopa County Department of Public Health’s West Nile virus web page. “Recovery from severe illness may take several weeks or months and some of the neurologic problems may be permanent. "

As of Wednesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services had confirmed 88 cases of West Nile virus and five deaths. The agency said those numbers were seven and two respectively last year.

“This summer, with all of the rain, we’ve had tons of mosquitoes, and when that happens, it increases the chance that we could have increased transmission of West Nile virus,” Dr. Thomas Grys of Mayo Clinic in Phoenix said. The most common carrier is the Culex species, which is generally most active from evening to early morning. Any standing water can be the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.

Maricopa County Public Health says symptoms tend to manifest between two and six days after being bitten. Those symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash. The agency says 1-in-5 people develop symptoms. While most people recover, it can be a long road, with fatigue and weakness lingering for weeks, even months.

According to Maricopa County Health, those older than 60, people with conditions like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplant patients are at the most significant risk for serious illness.

West Nile first showed up in the United States in 1999. Maricopa County Public Health said its first outbreak was in 2004.

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