Medical City Plano August 23, 2018

Ben Harris, Medical City Healthcare executive, raises awareness of life-threatening virus

PLANO, Texas – Recent rains and the threat of standing water has inspired a former Plano City Council member and Medical City Healthcare executive to raise awareness of the ongoing threat of West Nile virus.

Last August, 38-year-old Ben Harris was healthy, vibrant and on the top of his game. He was rolling off a second successful term as a Plano City Council member and deputy mayor pro tem and was the newly promoted chief operating officer at Medical City Las Colinas after serving four years as Medical City Plano’s vice president of business development. On September 2, 2017, after falling in the middle of the night, he was taken by helicopter ambulance to Medical City Plano, where his condition continued to deteriorate and he quickly lost the ability to breathe. Within 24 hours, he was paralyzed and subsequently diagnosed with neuro-invasive West Nile virus, a life-threatening disease from the bite of an infected mosquito.

“I have worked in healthcare for more than 17 years,” said Harris. “Ironically, I was part of the administrative team that opened Medical City Plano’s Brain and Spine Hospital. At the time of my illness, I had never been hospitalized and certainly never anticipated being a patient, much less a critically ill patient with a life-threatening virus that came from a mosquito bite.”

Harris spent five weeks in the Medical City Plano intensive care unit, where he received life-saving medical care from a team of expertly trained physicians, nurses and staff members. He was later moved to an inpatient rehabilitation facility where he spent an additional six months learning to breathe on his own, eat and walk again. He is now dedicated to educating others on the prevention of West Nile virus. 

According to the Center of Disease Control, more than 120 people died of West Nile virus last year and thousands more were sickened by the virus. With recent rains in North Texas, Harris and medical experts are raising awareness of West Nile virus and its dangers.

Currently, there is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile virus. Experts recommend prevention by following the 4 D’s:

  • Wear insect repellant that contains DEET whenever you are outside
  • Dress in long, loose, light-color clothing
  • Drain all standing water in and around the home
  • Limit outdoor activities during dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active

Thanks to excellent medical care, intensive rehabilitation therapy and determination, Harris is finally reclaiming his life. He is back at work, walking without assistance and enjoying life again with his wife and two children.

Ben Harris is available for media interviews upon request.

Watch his incredible story of survival and recovery here.