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Kentucky man says he's fighting Eastern Equine Encephalitis, wants to warn others

Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-23 19:42:17-04

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (WTVF) — Across the country at least seven people have died and dozens have been infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis. As the illness makes headlines, one Christian County man said he had it last year, and wants to warn others.

"They didn't expect me to live until the morning," Mike Stagner said.

Last October, Stagner was in the fight for his life. His flu-like symptoms kept getting worse, and his wife Michelle knew something was drastically wrong.

"That night I come home from work, and he couldn't tell us who anybody was," Michelle Stagner said.

Stagner was airlifted to Nashville from Beverly, Kentucky near Hopkinsville and he had to be resuscitated twice. At Tristar Skyline Medical Center, Stagner went into a coma. He woke up on Thanksgiving day last year.

"Being from Fort Campbell when you hear the helicopter outside your window and you see it sitting down, you get out of the way, and I went to roll out of the bed, and a nurse said 'Don't move another inch or you're a dead man,'" Stagner said.

Doctors told Stagner he had a viral encephalitis, most likely the Eastern Equine Encephalitis, but they didn't have a test to confirm it.

"At the time there wasn't a whole lot of answers," Stagner said.

In September the mosquito-borne virus made headlines after it claimed at least 7 lives across the country. As Stagner gets back on his feet again, he wants to warn others in his community after what happened to him. Mike said he was bit by mosquitoes while mowing the lawn just days before he got sick.

"When I get mosquito bites it welts like everybody, but this one welted up good and I believe that's where my problem started," Stagner said.

Nearly a year later, Stagner has started working again. He still suffers from brain damage, memory loss, and eyesight problems from the virus. Eastern Equine Encephalitis is spread by mosquitoes. It can infect horses as well as humans.

His blood samples were sent to the CDC.