Lindsay Wilcox, NBC 5 News
After losing his mother, Mary Beth Miller, to West Nile Virus, Bill Dickerson is sharing his story and warning others.
A Dallas man who lost his mother to West Nile virus says people should be aware of the disease.
At 86 years old, Mary Beth Miller was fiercely independent until August 2003, when a mosquito infected her with West Nile virus.
"They called me one night and told me she had had a mild heart attack and she was over in the coronary ICU, so I went over there and went into ICU but, by the time I got there into ICU, she was already in a coma," said her son, Bill Dickerson.
"She had fought and won three battles with cancer," he said. "[She] couldn't fight off a mosquito, which is sad."
The first West Nile virus death in Dallas County was reported this week. North Texas has 56 reported cases so far this year.
"We know about West Nile," Dickerson said. "We know what it does to older people. It's fatal, so the problem I have now is, the city waits until we have half a dozen cases of West Nile before they make a big deal about it."
At a press conference Monday, health officials said they aggressively have been collecting and testing mosquito samples and spraying at-risk neighborhoods for mosquitoes.
"We've done all that we can do to get the information out," said Zachary Thompson, Dallas County health department director. "Unfortunately, it appears that we're at the epicenter of the United States right now."
This year is on pace with 2006, the worst year for West Nile virus in North Texas. That year, 119 cases were confirmed in Dallas and Tarrant counties and nine people died.