LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – The family of the first person in Colorado to die from West Nile Virus this year says he “was the picture of health” before getting the disease.
Jack Mitchell, 81, checked into Longmont United Hospital on Aug. 17 after complaining of flu-like symptoms.
His niece Betsy Hanlin told CBS4 he was doing okay at first.
“We talked. I told him about Von Miller being suspended because he loves the Broncos,” she said.
Three days later, Hanlin says she saw a big change at the hospital.
” I walked into the room and it took my breath away. He had aged 10 years from when I saw him (last),” she said.
Mitchell worked full time as a health insurance broker and also volunteered in a substance abuse clinic.
“81 was only a number,” Hanlin said. “He worked out 4 or 5 times a week. He ran his business. He was always busy.”
Health experts say West Nile is transmited through mosquitos and that 80 percent of the time someone contracts the disease there are no symptoms and no problems. But for the very young — and in Jack’s case — the elderly, West Nile can be deadly.
“It’s a mean, mean virus,” Hanlin said. “Because you couldn’t have picked a stronger man to be fighting it as Jack.”
Hanlin says she and her family have educated themselves about West Nile but she believes in her uncle’s case, nothing could have prevented the heartbreak caused by a tiny mosquito.
“In an instant one little bite has completely changed the dynamic of this family forever,” Hanlin said.
A funeral service for Mitchell will be held this week.