PALESTINE, TX—Just days after the City of Palestine came under fire for the death of a city employee, a city resident is now dead after contracting a strain of West Nile Virus that doctors claim is a mutation of the deadly virus unique to Wellscreek Wastewater Treatment Facility, a now closed city operated facility that is being used as a dumping ground for debris.
The unidentified resident was examined by a physician at Palestine Regional Medical Center (PRMC) on Thursday night where she was pronounced dead within minutes of arriving. Doctors determined the death was the result of ‘West Nile Virus,” a mosquito-borne zoonotic arbovirus.
According to a PRMC spokesperson, the strain of West Nile Virus is a mutation of the disease unique to the Wellscreek Wastewater Treatment Facility.
“We tested the virus and were surprised to discover that it was a new strain and after some more tests, have determined that the virus that caused the young lady’s death is a strain that is only found at the Wellscreek Wastewater Treatment Facility here in Palestine,” the spokesperson said.
Residents are understandably concerned, but City Manager Wendy Ellis says people should stay calm.
“The most important thing to remember is to not panic,” she said, “We’re working on a solution to the problem, but money is an obstacle that we’ve yet to overcome and until we’ve got the money to fix the problem, residents will have to just deal with it.” Ellis was interviewed by The Dogwood Tale at her home where she answered the door wearing and never removed a hazardous material suit.
“I purchased this hazmat suit with the last cash the city had because it’s important that your leader be safe during a crisis…I mean a very minor situation,” she said. “We’re most concerned about police officers who need hazmat suits, but we don’t have the cash on hand to buy them, so we’re asking residents to bring in any extra, even used, trash bags so that officers can make their own hazmat suit. We’re not too concerned about firefighters, I mean, after all, they’re a dime a dozen. I don’t even think we’re paying them anymore.”
As far as city residents, Ellis said they can get help at city hall.
“You can stop by city hall and the janitor will spray you with some ‘Deep Woods Off,’ Ellis explained, “We’ll bill the $20 fee for this service to your water bill for those that may have trouble paying it. There will probably be more deaths, but for the good of our city let’s just keep all that kind of quiet. To help with that, if your loved one dies from what you believe to be West Nile Virus, call the police department and an officer will come by and dispose of the body. Unfortunately, there can’t be a funeral, but that’s a small sacrifice to help us keep this little problem a secret. If anyone has any questions, they can call city hall and someone will text me and let me know to answer my phone before they transfer you. I promise if I have absolutely nothing else to do, I’ll answer.”
Ellis apologized to citizens about the situation at Wellscreek where the new strain of West Nile Virus apparently mutated and the mosquito infestation has caused its potential spread, but said that there were no plans to address the situation due to lack of funds. She added that if residents want to live in a town without West Nile Virus, a property tax hike may be needed.