West Nile patient's family says aerial spraying can't come soon enough

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - The family of a woman who ended up on life support after contracting West Nile says aerial spraying in Harris County can't come soon enough.

Kathy Gish, 53, came down with what felt like a stomach bug late last month. Three days later, her health took a troubling turn. She is now out of the hospital after a week on life support. However, she has an uphill battle ahead.

Family members say Gish is having trouble speaking and is also finding it difficult to walk on her own. She's one of nine confirmed cases of West Nile in Harris County.

"It is so scary, and it is so unreal," said daughter-in-law Chanda Oates. "We'd call her, you couldn't understand her. She didn't know what was going on. She was confused."

Harris County announced Wednesday that aerial spraying will cover 138,000 acres in northwest and northeast Harris County. The spraying is set to begin Thursday at sundown, weather permitting.

Two airplanes will take off from Hooks Airport and are expected to spray an insecticide from the air all night long. Crews have also been spraying on the ground in neighborhoods where mosquitoes test positive for the virus.

"I think it's great. It's about time," said Oates.

Harris County is seeing a surge in mosquitoes infected with West Nile this year. So far, 735 mosquito samples have tested positive for the virus. According to Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, 147 mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile last year.

Doctors say only one in five people develop symptoms from West Nile, and a very small minority experience what happened to Gish.

"One percent who might be affected by the West Nile virus will develop something more serious, which we call neuroinvasive disease," explained Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County.

Gish's family just hopes the spraying can save others from what she is going through.

"It's scary to see the outcome of having her on life support to help her breathe," recalled Oates. "If you wait too long, it could be fatal."

Oates says her mother-in-law rarely wore mosquito repellent. Now, the entire family wears repellent with DEET whenever going outside.

Experts also recommend wearing long sleeves and pants and also wearing light colored and loose fitting clothes.


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