LOS FELIZ  (CBSLA.com)  —    Family remembered the loved one taken by an illness most people don’t think about.

West Nile virus can be deadly for the elderly or people with compromised immune systems.

“She was unconscious, we had her on a ventilator, and we took her off the ventilator on Monday,” said Suzi Howe about her mother, 84-year-old Julie Shepherd.

Just two days after losing her mother,  Howe wants everyone to know what took the life of her mother.

“What keeps me going is I’m so darn mad that a little mosquito took down my active mom,” Howe said.

She believes her mom was bitten by a mosquito somewhere around her West Covina home.  Shepherd had no idea what was wrong with her but she started complaining of extreme fatigue. Then, over Labor Day weekend, a neighbor found her on the kitchen floor confused.

By the time she was taken to the hospital, Shepherd was paralyzed on her right side. Days later, the once healthy and active grandmother was diagnosed with West Nile.

“Between her going paralyzed, unconscious, in a coma, you could just see her wasting away. It was horrendous to watch,” Howe said.

Howe says over the next several days, West Nile ravaged her mother’s brain and nervous system. When there was no improvement, Howe and her family decided to take Shepherd off life support.

“It’s just heartbreaking, it’s heartbreaking,” Howe says.

Shepherd’s family is glad to see that LA County’s Vector Control District was out Wednesday afternoon, going door-to-door, spreading the word about West Nile and the precautions people should take.

“I just want people to take it seriously because it’s spreading and I don’t want to see anybody else go through it because it’s horrendous,” said Howe.


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