West Covina woman succumbs to West Nile virus

WEST COVINA, Calif. (KABC) -- August and September are the busiest months for reported cases of the West Nile Virus and it recently took the life of a West Covina 84-year-old.

"It's not a way that you ever thought you would lose your mom," said Jan Ratterree, the daughter of Julie Shepherd.

Ratterree and her family took their mom Julie Shepherd off life support Monday. Shepherd was a healthy, active grandmother.

"It was horrifying to see her, what it did to her, and I just knew that it was not something she was likely to recover from and most don't," Ratterree said.

The first symptom was fatigue and then over Labor Day Weekend, a neighbor found Shepherd on her kitchen floor. She was rushed to the trauma center at Pomona Valley Hospital.

Days later, she was diagnosed with West Nile. Her condition deteriorated daily as the disease affected her brain and nervous system. Shepherd didn't know she had been bit. Her daughter thinks it could have happened right around her house.

"I watch people walk by here all day long in the evening and it makes you want to run out there. Are you wearing bug spray? Because we're not talking just older people," Ratterree said.

Shepherd's family said she had no standing water outside her house and rarely ventured out early in the morning or at dusk.

"In Los Angeles County alone, we've already had three fatalities and we're up to about 81 cases throughout the county. West Nile virus is everywhere," said Kelly Middleton, the director of community affairs for Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.

The symptoms of West Nile are normally more flu-like, but it can turn fatal. Vector Control was out door-knocking Wednesday to raise awareness.

"We want residents to go out and check their properties. Get rid of any water that is standing that could be breeding these mosquitoes and most importantly, when they're spending time outdoors, they need to be wearing mosquito repellent," said Middleton.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.