KINGWOOD, Texas – Thursday marked day 29 since Patricia Kennedy was hospitalized with a confirmed case of West Nile virus.
The 68-year-old Montgomery County woman first went to an emergency room Aug. 23 with what her family thought was a stomach virus and then meningitis. By the fourth day, they all knew it was something worse, even affecting Kennedy's memory.
"After about the fourth day, she was completely delirious and was just completely out of it," Kennedy's daughter Jillian Kennedy said. "Right then and there, we knew something was more than just your typical stomach virus."
Patricia Kennedy is being treated at the Kingwood Medical Center. After being in a coma for six days, one of her daughters says she now is coherent but still has some challenges.
"Unfortunately, she's on a trach, breathing tube so she can't talk," Jillian Kennedy said.
West Nile is spread by infected mosquitoes. Many people can be carriers and never contract the actual disease -- but the elderly, children and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk for coming down with the sickness.
Patricia Kennedy's family is speaking out to make sure people know that even though the traditional summer months have passed, the virus can still wreak havoc on a loved one.
"It's absolutely horrible," Jillian Kennedy said, "the worst thing you can possibly see."
Patricia Kennedy was diagnosed with meningitis and about 1 percent of patients who contract West Nile also come down with meningitis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV in people.
Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not have symptoms. About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness. You can reduce your risk of WNV by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites.