West Nile virus victim's family shocked that disease took loved one's life

Photo Credit: Soraya Mendoza
Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 11:30pm

The family of an El Paso man, who died from West Nile virus last week, says they were shocked when they found out what killed him.

Eighty-four year old Rodolfo Mendoza's family said he had cancer and so they assumed that's why he died. 

Health officials say less than 1 percent of people infected with West Nile actually die from it, and most have pre-existing health conditions.

Nonetheless, experts insist  the threat of getting the virus shouldn't be taken lightly.

Mendoza didn't spend much time outdoors, but he was a family man.

His granddaughter, Soraya Mendoza said he would walk several blocks to visit relatives in his Central El Paso neighborhood each day.

But those gatherings would never be the same after Rodolfo died last week. 

"It's hurtful to think that a little mosquito could do so much hurt and damage to a family," said Soraya Mendoza.

Rodolfo Mendoza's death from West Nile virus is El Paso County's first this year and it's got some in the Borderland worried.

"I'm nervous about getting the West Nile virus," said Rachel Coronel.

The El Paso Department of Public Health reports 13 confirmed cases of the disease so far - a decrease from 32 cases and 5 deaths this same time last year.

"Maybe the accumulation of water was less this year than last year. There's a lot of factors that need to be considered," said Fernando Gonzalez from the El Paso Department of Public Health.

"I hear about it but I'm not really worried," said Giselda Ribera.

Health officials say the monsoon invites West Nile virus infected mosquitoes to El Paso.

The insects multiply the most between June and September,  but can stick around until late October or November when temperatures drop below 60 degrees.

The El Paso Department of Public Health urges you to get rid of any standing water because it's ground zero for infected mosquitoes.

Also, avoid being outside if they're are around, wear long-sleeved clothing, and use repellant.

"In our community, only 9 percent of the population uses repellant. This is a must," said Gonzalez.

Since losing her grandfather, Soraya Mendoza says her family is much more cautious when spending time outdoors.

"Every time we leave the car to go to the park, we'll be putting the repellant on," said Soraya Mendoza.

Health officials say most people infected with West Nile virus don't ever experience any symptoms - 20 percent who do will only suffer from symptoms similar to those of a common cold.

If you experience more serious symptoms like severe headaches, muscle weakness, or vision loss, you're asked to see a doctor immediately. 

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