West Nile Virus claims life of man in Mobile

The man’s son says the CDC confirmed his father’s death was caused by the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 5:06 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Mosquito-borne illnesses have now claimed two lives in the Mobile Bay area.

Last week, a young child in Baldwin County died from EEE... the rare, mosquito-borne disease known as eastern equine encephalitis.

Mobile native Matthew Sosienski is remembering his father, 73-year-old John Sosienski. He says his father’s life was tragically cut short after he was bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile Virus.

“He had a fall- that’s what landed him in the hospital down his front porch and come to find out, the fall was caused by the West Nile- kind of messes with your equilibrium,” said Sosienski.

From there, Sosienski’s says his father’s symptoms took a turn for the worse.

“He was in the hospital for 12 hours before he started losing reality. Couldn’t remember things in just a few minutes, couldn’t feed himself, so it went bad really quick,” he explained.

It took six days until they found out he had contracted West Nile Virus.

“He had a lunbar puncture which is where they take some spinal fluid- test it, they sent it off to the CDC,” stated Sosienski.

“The day he went in there was a girl who passed away that day from EE as well. It’s just...people need to know about it,” he added.

Sosienski says his father experienced painful symptoms.

“He went from a medically-induced coma to a coma of his own, from the swelling of the brain caused by West Nile along with meningitis. His kidney failed, his heart started failing, lots of health issues. He just never came back.”

He says his dad’s zeal for nature likely exposed him to a mosquito that carried the virus.

“He loved going outside- fishing, canoeing, kayaking, anything outside,” said Sosienski.

On August 15, the Mobile County Health Department reported the first human case of West Nile Virus for 2023. As a result, the department enhanced mosquito control efforts in the community but would not confirm a death due to privacy reasons.

Dr. Kevin P. Michaels with the Mobile County Health Department cites the tell-tale symptoms of West Nile Virus:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Stiff Neck
  • Confusion
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Disorientation
  • Seizers
  • Coma or Death

The Mobile County Health Department is urging folks to take these precautions while outside:

  • Always have mosquito repellent on hand
  • Mosquito activity peaks at dusk and dawn, so plan accordingly
  • Draining standing water will stop mosquitoes from multiplying
  • Cover doors/windows with screens
  • Cover skin with clothing/repellent

Meanwhile, Sosienski is echoing the same advice, but he doesn’t want his father’s story to stop people from enjoying nature...just like his dad did.

“Don’t let this scare you away from being able to go outside. We could just take the right precautions and we can still do the stuff we love to do,” he said.