Monday, August 26, 2002

West Nile victim identified

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The first Ohio resident to probably die of West Nile virus was a family man who loved music and preferred spending his time indoors.

        Spinal fluids from Robert H. Bell Jr., who died Aug. 12, are being tested for the West Nile virus. The 79-year-old Goshen man died at Bethesda North Hospital.

  Chris Eddy, director of environmental health for the Hamilton County General Health District, chats about West Nile virus today at 12:30 p.m. at
        “I spoke with the family, and at this point I guess it really is best to confirm it,” Clermont County Health Commissioner Janet Rickabaugh said Sunday.

        State health officials said Friday they were investigating a “probable case,” but would not identify the victim. But it will not be official until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms it.

        Test results could return as early as this week. If confirmed, it would be the state's first death associated with the disease.

        Mr. Bell, a former Marine, police officer and security guard, moved to Goshen two months ago after living in Indiana and Kentucky. He recently became engaged.

        Although Mr. Bell moved here recently, he may have contracted the virus in Clermont County because it takes only five to 15 days from being bitten for West Nile to set in, Dr. Rickabaugh said.

        Mr. Bell's daughter, Angelique Walters, said her dad treasured his family. One of nine children, he had six children - four of them from his last marriage of 42 years - plus two stepchildren, 16 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

        “Family meant a lot to him,” said Ms. Walters, 41, of Cambridge, Wis. “Who we were related to, how we were related to them - it was all very important to him.”

        Mr. Bell was reasonably healthy, but had suffered from arthritis for years.

        He was married for 42 years to Ms. Walters' mother, 71-year-old Yvonne Bell. She died in March.

        “We were very happy for him to have companionship so he wasn't so lonely,” Ms. Walters said of his engagement.

        Ms. Walters said the exact cause of death was still being determined when a memorial service was held Aug. 16

        The Ohio Department of Health reports there are 13 other probable cases of West Nile virus in Ohio.


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