Denver man succumbs to complications from West Nile Virus four years after mosquito bite

Disease blinded, paralyzed Jessie Gallegos

DENVER - A Denver man who contracted West Nile Virus following a mosquito bite in 2008 died from complications of the disease earlier this month.

Family members say 75-year old Jessie Gallegos lost his ability to fight off infections.

“It broke my heart, but it also gave me strength to know that my dad was a fighter,” said the victim’s daughter, Rose Gallegos.

In an earlier interview, Jessie Gallegos told 7NEWS that he came home from work in early Sept. 2008 and sat on his front porch swing.

“All of a sudden I felt like something bit me,” Gallegos said.

“So he came in and rinsed it off with peroxide and put alcohol on it,” Rose Gallegos said. “He didn’t give it a second thought.”

Two weeks later Gallegos was in the hospital.

“He went into a coma.  They had to intubate him, and he contracted the encephalitis that goes with it,” Rose said.

Family members told 7NEWS that doctors didn’t think Gallegos would last longer than 30 days.

He proved the doctors wrong.

Although he was blinded and left partially paralyzed by the disease, Gallegos didn’t feel sorry for himself.

“Everybody was sad about him,” said his wife, Olivia Gallegos. “And he used to say, ‘don’t be sad because this is what God gave me.’”

Gallegos then set about educating friends and family about the disease, the importance of mosquito spray and mosquito control.

“We’re diligent about emptying standing water, not being out late night during the summer months and early fall and using citronella candles,” Rose said. “And the bug zapper.  My dad always told us to use the bug zapper.”

Rose said she’s grateful that the family was able to spend Christmas together.

She said her father’s health took a turn for the worse in December.

“We took him to the hospital January 1,” she said. “It got to the point where the antibiotics weren’t working.”

“We can mourn my dad,” she said. “But he expects us to go on and do what we’re supposed to do and that’s to educate people about West Nile. That was his goal.”

A rosary service will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Newcomer Funeral Home West Metro Chapel at 901 S. Sheridan Street.

The funeral service will be held at 9 a.m. Friday at St. Cajetan’s Catholic Church at 299 S. Raleigh Street in Denver.