EEE victim’s family urges precautions: ‘It happened to us’

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of a Battle Creek man who lost his life to Eastern Equine Encephalitis is trying to raise awareness about the mosquito-borne virus a day after his death.

Stan Zalner, 79, died Wednesday morning after suffering severe brain damage and spending weeks in a coma.

Ronna Bagent, Zalner’s daughter, is calling on the community to take precautions following the outbreak of the virus in Michigan. Her father was the fourth person in the state to die of EEE this year, all of them in southwest Michigan.

Zalner’s family supports a state-backed aerial mosquito spraying program.

“I encourage people to let the spray happen,” Bagent said. “It will kill off mosquitoes. It’s not going to kill all of them off but it could kill off the ones that could bite you and ultimately end in your death.”

She said her father first became sick in the middle of August with flu-like symptoms. He went to the hospital, where his condition quickly became worse.

“He was showing signs of double vision, hallucinations,” she recalled.

Family members made the difficult decision to stop the care that was keeping him alive because the brain damage had become too severe.

“He was in the coma for five weeks not really showing any signs of coming back and so we had determined that it was best just to let him go,” Bagent said. “He wouldn’t want to live that way so we let him go.”

The family does not know where Zalner was bitten but said he loved to spend time gardening and enjoying the outdoors.

“My father was very healthy, very active, played golf four times a week,” Bagent said.

They want people to know the danger of getting the virus should not be ignored.

“I see people say ‘Oh, that won’t happen to me.’ Well, it happened to us and we would have never thought that,” Bagent said.

The family is reminding people to use bug spray, wear long clothing and be especially careful at night when mosquitoes are most active.

They want officials to create new programs to better monitor and control the mosquito population in West Michigan.

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