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West Nile Virus Kills Woman in Highland

Gisela Hughes, 73, is the 16th person in California to die of the disease, and San Bernardino County's fifth. Her swimming pool was breeding mosquitoes.

September 18, 2004|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

The West Nile virus claimed its fifth San Bernardino County victim Thursday, a 73-year-old Highland woman.

Gisela Hughes died almost a month after being admitted to St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino for asthma and other complications. She was subsequently diagnosed with the virus.

"I was wishing I wouldn't hear that she had West Nile, because I knew her pool was dirty and that there's no antidote to the virus," said her son, Scott Hughes, 49. "It almost seemed hopeless."

Where Hughes contracted the mosquito-borne virus is uncertain, but the stagnant pool on her property was breeding mosquitoes and was treated by vector control workers, county officials said.

Statewide, 558 West Nile virus infections have been reported, and 16 people have died, including Hughes.

Most people with West Nile virus do not experience symptoms.

The elderly and those with compromised immune systems, however, are most susceptible to the disease.

Hughes suffered from diabetes and other medical problems, her son said.

He flew from his Wisconsin home to be at her bedside, and his sister flew from Germany.

Hughes was a homemaker and volunteer at the St. Bernardine Medical Center gift shop.

She received the Volunteer of the Year award several years ago, her son said.

Her husband, an electrical engineer at the Norton Air Force Base, died in 1990.

Her friends at the hospital have planned a memorial service for today.

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