Medical Leader Dies From Health Complications

Dr. Bill Shelton (KTRE Photo)
Dr. Bill Shelton (KTRE Photo)

A long-time leader in the medical field has died. Dr. Bill Shelton was a pioneer of cancer treatment in East Texas. He suffered from several health problems, including West Nile virus.

Dr. Shelton had survived a rare form of cancer and started a benefit to help raise money for other cancer patients. Every year, the "Totally Awesome Fishing Adventure" raises tens of thousands of dollars for cancer patients.

Dr. Shelton also served as director of the Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center. He'd practiced medicine for more than 40 years.

Shelton's friend, Bryant Krenek, said, "His heart was in everything he did, both in medicine as well as his community. I think most people are going to remember Dr. Shelton in terms of his community contributions, but those of us in the medical field will certainly also remember Dr. Shelton and what he did for the cancer center in Lufkin and Memorial hospital."

Shelton died Sunday in Lufkin. He was 72 years old.

Doctor Shelton was one of several East Texans who tested positive for the West Nile Virus this year. People over age 50 are at higher risk of getting severely sick from West Nile.

West Nile Virus has two forms. About 20 percent of infected people get the milder version, also known as West Nile Fever. Public health officials compare it to a pretty intense flu. Its symptoms can last a few days, to several weeks.

Carrie Williams, assistant press officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said those symptoms include "severe headache, muscle and bone aches, nausea, and drowsiness."

About one in 150 people infected with West Nile will develop the more serious form of the disease - the neuro-invasive version. This can be deadly in elderly people or patients with already compromised immune systems.

Williams said those problems include "stiff neck, visual problems, altered taste, mental confusion, and seizures. That can be quite, quite serious."

That's because it can develop into encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), which can kill.

"We're nearing the end of West Nile season, so people are starting to be a little bit less cautious with insect repellant and that kind of thing," said Williams. "We do have a little bit more time left, so I would just urge people to use insect repellant if they're going to be outside or if they're in an area where they notice mosquitoes."

Heavy rain and storms over the past couple weeks left ditches, yards, and fields full of standing water - the perfect place for mosquitoes to breed. You can protect yourself by emptying all standing water around your home and making sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

There have been several confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in East Texas this year. The Angelina County & Cities Health District tested 22 people for the virus. Seven of those cases tested positive. Four more are suspected of having the disease. One of the infected patients died.