Daughter warns others after father contracts West Nile virus

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A daughter who made the difficult decision to take her father with West Nile virus off life support has a warning for others.

Channel 2’s Wendy Corona got a text Monday afternoon from the family of Johnny Gresham that his organs were failing.

The family members said West Nile virus cost him his life and they want to warn others about how an insect’s bite can change your world.

“He just got diagnosed in late October, and it took them three weeks to find out,” said Cassandra Gresham.

Her 71-year-old father’s symptoms were fever, dementia and diarrhea. He was treated at Emory Midtown Hospital.

“He went into cardiac arrest, and that next morning, they rushed him up to ICU, and then that next morning they put him on life support,” Gresham said.

The eventual diagnosis: West Nile mengio-encephalytis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people do not show symptoms of West Nile virus, but 1 in 150 develop a serious, sometimes fatal illness.

“Everybody always gotten bit by mosquitos but never knew that a mosquito could take a life,” Gresham, said.

The CDC statistics are grim.

Recovery could take months, and 1 in 10 people who develop severe illness that affects the central nervous system die.

“I just want people to be very vigilant and not take it lightly when we talk about mosquitoes,” Gresham said.

Corona spoke to people who say they’re being very aware.

“I work at a summer camp so it’s my job to get the kids to wear it so I wear it too,” said Claire Hadley Benton.

“I have citronella stuff all over my backyard because I don’t want my dogs getting bit either,” said Lisa Carney.

There is no cure for West Nile virus. The CDC stresses to protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing pants and long sleeves or using repellent with DEET.

The CDC is tracking 10 confirmed cases in Georgia so far in 2019.