Former Elkhart resident dies of West Nile virus

A former Elkhart resident has died of West Nile virus, according to a family member.

Posted on Jan. 2, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — A former Elkhart woman who had been living in Chicago has died of West Nile virus.

Betsy Housand, 49, died at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center Wednesday, Jan. 1, after a three-month battle with the disease, according to her father, Jonathan Housand, of Elkhart.

Betsy Housand arrived at a hospital emergency room in Chicago on Oct. 4, complaining of headaches and a high fever.

John Housand declined to go into details, but he said his daughter’s condition worsened within days, and she eventually slipped into what he described as a medically induced coma for several weeks.

She was then moved to a long-term care unit in Mishawaka where she remained until she suffered cardiac arrest over the weekend and was then moved to St. Joseph Medical Center.

She had suffered from lupus since she was 14 and had received two kidney transplants, which left her more susceptible to West Nile virus because she had no immune system, her father said.

She had received more than one blood transfusion earlier in the year, which Jonathan Housand said he learned can sometimes be a transmission source for the disease.

Family and friends are left to wonder.

“It could have been a mosquito,” he said. “We’ll never know.”

He described Betsy as a “beautiful person.”

“Everyone who was ever in contact with her loved her,” he said.

Housand was a 1982 graduate of Elkhart Memorial High School. She graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and soon moved to Chicago where she specialized in graphic design and desktop publishing. She most recently had been employed with Momentum in Chicago, a subsidiary of Interpublic Group.

A memorial service is planned for Housand for 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Granger.

In addition to her father, survivors include her mother, Sherry and two brothers.

In early September, The Elkhart Truth reported three samples of mosquitoes collected by the Indiana State Department of Health in Goshen and Nappanee had been found with West Nile virus. At that time, there had been no reported cases of humans or animals in the county that had tested positive.

According to information provided by the United States Geological Survey website, Indiana in 2013 had 21 cases of people who had contracted the disease. That total included one case in Elkhart County.

Comparatively, Illinois reported 112 cases, including 56 in Cook County, which includes Chicago.

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