ABITA SPRINGS -- Looking at the Tammany Trace leaves Amanda Young longing for four years ago when she was a vibrant, healthy 34-year-old Pre-K teacher training for a half-marathon.

Then suddenly, "Monday, I was running. Tuesday, I was running-walking. And Wednesday and Thursday, I put myself to bed," she said, "Friday, I couldn't hold my head up at work and I was falling asleep."

It took more than three weeks to confirm she was suffering from West Nile Virus. By then, she was losing balance and memory and the left side of her body started exhibiting weakness and drooping like a she'd had a stroke.

"I couldn't suck through a straw," Young recalled. "I think that was the point I got really scared."

After various treatments, Young is still sensitive to light and sound and has been slowed down due to a heart condition brought on by the virus. She wants families to know the reality of the illness and catching it.

"Right now, Louisiana is at 21 cases and we've had two deaths. So it can happen," Young said. "It can happen to anyone."

Young says local governments do a good job with mosquito abatement as it is, so the effort to avoid West Nile really has to start with you. That goes for protecting yourself with bug spray and proper clothing, as well as caring for the environment around you by getting rid of all standing water around your home and business after each rain.

As for those who learned about the dangers of West Nile the hard way, a monthly survivor support group, held in Mississippi, has helped turn life after the virus around.

"You meet other people, but you also, there is hope," Young said.

And she wants her story to also spread hope, but awareness too.

The survivor support group, associated with non-profit Mosquito Illness Alliance, is having its next meeting Friday, Aug. 25, from 1-to-3 p.m. at the LiveWell Center in Hattiesburg, MS. The address is 5909 U.S. Highway 49.

You can read up about the group and non-profit, or get involved, by visiting their website, or their Facebook page.