EAU CLAIRE — An Eau Claire farmer died this weekend due to complications from the Eastern equine encephalitis virus.
Jim Whitright died Saturday at Memorial Hospital in South Bend after a lengthy bout with the mosquito-borne virus.
Whitright, who was known to many as “Tiny,” was 54 years old.
The fourth-generation farmer became sick on Aug. 19 with a high fever and was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, where his symptoms worsened.
Gillian Conrad, communications manager at the Berrien County Health Department, said the state recorded 10 cases of EEE in humans this year – six of which were fatal.
The majority of the EEE cases have come from Southwest Michigan: two in Berrien County, two in Cass County, three in Kalamazoo County and one in Van Buren County.
Normally, EEE has a fatality rate of roughly 33 percent in people.
Joan Doty, Whitright’s sister, said her brother spent four weeks at the Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph before he was transferred to specialty services in Battle Creek.
Doty said Whitright grew up doing what he loved the most – farming.
She described Whitright was an “all-around good guy” who cared about everyone.
“He was loved by everybody. You couldn’t go anywhere without someone calling his name,” Doty said Monday. “It was like being out with someone from Hollywood. Everybody loved him.”
Funeral arrangements for Whitright are being handled by the Bowerman Funeral Home of Eau Claire.
For those who wish to help the family, they can visit Whitright’s GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/f/jim-whitright.
Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski