Widow of West Nile virus victim urges protection

By Amy Davis, Investigative Reporter/Consumer Expert, adavis@kprc.com
Published On: Aug 30 2012 03:52:03 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 23 2012 06:28:13 PM CDT

Aug. 23, 2012: The widow of the first Houston man to die from West Nile virus this year talks about her loss and urges other to protect themselves. Amy Davis reports. | Doctors are getting lots of calls from concerned Houstonians. Rachel McNeill reports.

HOUSTON -

The West Nile death toll has risen to four in the Houston area. The first victim in the Houston victim lived in the Sharpstown area.

His wife is still coming to terms with the fact that her husband of 36 years was killed by a tiny mosquito.

"A little bitty bug, little bitty," said Patsy. The newly-widowed woman didn't want to reveal her last name because she worries now that she's all alone. 

She said her husband weighed 238 pounds and was a strong man. If he wasn't in his garage, he was out in the yard. He plugged in a fan to keep the mosquitoes off of his wife while she sat in her swing, but she said he didn't take precautions himself.

"He didn't want to wear bug spray," Patsy said. "He didn't think anything was ever going to happen to him."

But one day in June, Gene lost his appetite. Then he developed a rash. Days later, he was in the hospital on life support.

In hindsight, the family remembers seeing four dead birds in their yard or near their home.

Harris County Mosquito Control's Rudy Bueno said it was large clusters of dead birds that made his agency realize there was a problem.

"We have been seeing a lot of Blue Jays die this year," said Bueno.

Those clusters, along with more than 250 surveillance sites where the county traps and tests mosquitoes, help them determine where to spray.

Gene's family now fogs their own yard every day and they don’t step outside without protection.

If you see a dead bird in Harris County, you can call to have it tested. They will tell you how to collect it and where to drop it off if they think it will be helpful. The number to call is 713-440-3036.

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