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The Villages
Thursday, July 29, 2021

Villager’s death from West Nile Virus linked to mosquito bite at Fenney

A golfer who died of West Nile Virus in 2019 after suffering a fatal mosquito bite at a golf course in the Village of Fenney was the No. 3 story this year in The Villages.

Don Roberts, 74, died Jan. 16 at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. His death certificate definitively stated that he died of West Nile Virus Encephalitis and that septic shock and pneumonia were also contributing factors.

Don and Sharlene Roberts

Roberts, who moved with his wife Sharlene in 2007 from Indiana to the Village of Caroline, is believed to have suffered the deadly mosquito bite in December after golfing with friends in the Village of Fenney. The golfers gathered at the Fenney fire pit after completing their game.

The Fenney Fire Pit is where a Villager is believed to have contracted West Nile Virus.

Within days, Roberts started to fall ill, but the source of his ailments was a mystery.

“He was getting sicker every day,” said Sharlene Roberts, who in 2019 would have marked her 52nd wedding anniversary with her husband.

Her husband’s fever spiked to 102 degrees and on Dec. 14 he was admitted at The Villages Regional Hospital. Doctors could not pinpoint what was wrong and he was transferred Dec. 19 to Shands Hospital. His hospitalization was an incredibly difficult journey, as he contracted MRSA and required a tracheotomy.

Residents of the Village of Fenney – as well as the rest of The Villages – were concerned about their fellow Villager’s death, particularly because Fenney is surrounded by marshes, terrific habitat for breeding mosquitos.

Residents’ concern prompted a Sumter County-organized informational event at the Fenney Recreation Center.

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