LONGMONT - Jack Mitchell went from good to really bad in a matter of days. The 81-year old Longmont businessman remains hospitalized at Longmont United Hospital after doctors recently diagnosed him with West Nile virus infection.
His family believes the man they call their "pillar" will be able to pull through, but they worry about what the virus has already done to his body.
"He oftentimes doesn't have the clarity that he usually does," said his niece Betsy Hanlin on Friday. "Just in the last six days it's turned from what we didn't think was too big of a deal into a big deal."
"It's hard to see him like this. It's just hard," said his father-in-law Bob Hanlin. "He's well known and well loved. I don't know anyone who has a bad thing to say about Jack Mitchell."
The family's story is yet another powerful reminder that the state remains a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry the occasionally deadly virus. While the current numbers represent just a fraction of what the state dealt with in 2003 (the peak season in Colorado), the numbers remain high enough to keep people nervous statewide.
In 2003, for example, by late August the state had already reported 699 confirmed cases of West Nile in humans. Currently, the state reports 36 cases. It's important to note the state's numbers frequently lag behind the county's numbers, as Larimer County alone this week reported at least 30 confirmed cases.
On Friday, Weld County reported its first "neuroinvasive case" of West Nile.
"West Nile neuroinvasive disease is the most serious type of infection, affecting the brain and spinal cord," said Dr. Mark Wallace, Executive Director of the Weld County Health Department, via a news release.
Larimer County, by comparison, has already reported 8 neuroinvasive cases.
Most Colorado counties, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, have yet to have a single human case.
The state's log suggest Boulder County has a total of four cases, but the figure does not include the case of Jack Mitchell as of yet.
"A mosquito can change an entire family's life in an instant. It's devastating," said Betsy Hanlin. "(Jack) has done so much in his lifetime that I just refuse to accept that a mosquito bite can take it all away."
For more information on Jack Mitchell, you can head to a Facebook page set up by the family. https://www.facebook.com/JackMitchellsJourney
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