West Nile Victim May Have Contracted Virus In Indiana

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - The man believed to be Ohio's first West Nile fatality, a traveling musician based in Fort Wayne, may have contracted the disease in Indiana, his family said.

Robert H. Bell, 79, died from encephalitis Aug. 12 at Bethesda North Hospital near Cincinnati. The hospital sent samples to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm West Nile virus was the cause, hospital spokesman Joe Kelley said.

Ohio health officials have not confirmed that Bell was the state's first West Nile fatality. They announced a second possible death from West Nile virus on Monday.

Relatives said Bell, a country-western guitarist, traveled the Midwest but was based in Fort Wayne and could have contracted the disease there.

Bell had visited Fort Wayne and was back in Clermont County, Ohio, for about a week before falling ill, his son Shaun Bell said.

The incubation period for West Nile virus is from three days to two weeks.

Bell stayed inside most of the time he was in Fort Wayne but could have been bitten by a mosquito while traveling, Shaun Bell said.

"When he was here, he was indoors," Shaun Bell told The Journal Gazette for a story Tuesday. "He was inside a lot. He was old, so it's hard for him to get around."

The elder Bell played with several bands that toured the Midwest and was best known as lead guitarist with the Trail Blazers, a country-western band. He was a regular performer on "Midwestern Hayride," a regional TV program that ran in the 1950s through the 1970s.

Twenty people nationwide have died from the virus this year, according to the CDC.

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