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Lethbridge widower calls for timely public warnings when West Nile Virus outbreaks suspected
After losing his wife to last year’s outbreak of West Nile Virus near Coaldale, a Lethbridge man say more should be done to ensure the public is warned when there is significant risk of contracting the virus.
Terry Sherman was one of three people to die in connection with the West Nile Virus outbreak in Alberta in 2018.
Darcy Sherman, Terry’s husband, says he remained optimistic about his soulmate’s chances of survival until shortly before her death on October 11 at the age of 54. “You know you need to make a decision because she’s not going to recover,” said Sherman. “You’re not going to get a miracle from this.”
“There is no vaccines. There is no treatment for West Nile.”
The virus is most commonly spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito and, given the timeline of Terry’s symptoms and deterioration, she likely contracted the virus in late August or early September.
Terry is believed to have been exposed to the virus a short time after several birds began to exhibit symptoms of West Nile Virus at the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale. The centre lost a total of 15 of its hawks, owls and eagles to the virus and Colin Weir, the managing director of the foundation, notified the Town of Coaldale of what he suspected at the time to be an outbreak.
Weir told CTV in a December 2018 interview that Town officials told him to keep his suspicions under wraps until the presence of the virus was confirmed. Weir said that after he shared his assumptions with the Town, several ponds in the area were filled and Alberta Health Services issued a mosquito bite warning without referencing the virus.
“It is upsetting that no notification came out of any of these organizations whether it be AHS or the Town of Coaldale or Environment,” said Darcy.
The outbreak of West Nile Virus in the Coaldale area was not publicized until December and Darcy says his wife would likely have taken additional precautions in the summer if she was aware of the risk in the area. Terry was the recipient of a kidney transplant in 2002 and continued to take medication that supressed her immune system.
Darcy says he doesn’t place responsibility for his wife’s death on anyone but believes the public should be immediately notified when an outbreak is suspected.
With files from CTV’s Terry Vogt