DALLAS — Despite his 86 years, Bernard Theilen maintained an active lifestyle.
His family says the great-grandfather was strong and healthy. He spent a lot of time working in the front yard of his North Dallas home on Villa Park Circle.
Retired from an auto dealership, Theilen enjoyed walking his poodle several times a day through the neighborhood.
He never showed much concern for mosquitoes, however, and his family fears that active lifestyle is how he eventually contracted the West Nile virus.
“I feel he caught it because he loved his little dog he would take walking,” said his son, George Theilen.
Theilen died Sunday morning at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas after fighting the virus for two weeks.
Family members rushed him to the emergency room after he suddenly became nauseous and confused. His family first assumed Theilen was suffering from heat exhaustion.
Once he was admitted, however, his condition quickly deteriorated.
“In three days he went from sitting here talking to totally unresponsive,” George Theilen said in an interview at his father’s home on Monday evening.
Bernard Theilen is the latest to die from the West Nile virus, which has now claimed five lives in Dallas County. The virus has now killed more people in Dallas County than ever before, surpassing the record of four deaths set in 2006.
Nearly 200 people across North Texas have gotten sick so far this year.
Theilen is one of two victims who lived in the same Dallas zip code: 75225. It’s an area of North Dallas roughly bordered by Lovers Lane, Central Expressway, Walnut Hill Lane and the Dallas North Tollway.
Theilen’s home sits just steps from a private school and NorthPark Center.
“I think I’m going to take some of these yard signs and say, 'West Nile case found here,' and maybe that will alert the neighbors,” George Theilen said.
Health officials concede that two deaths from the same neighborhood are not prompting many changes. The city continues to spray neighborhoods where the disease has been found and authorities continue to urge residents to take precautions, such as dumping standing water and wearing insect repellent.
George Theilen says his family never took the health concerns seriously until his father became sick. “It didn’t even enter into my mind initially that this could even be a problem,” he said. “It’s very surprising to me that this could hit home as strongly and as severely as it has our family.”