Family who lost 13-year-old son fights for West Nile vaccine funding

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GIDDINGS, Texas (KXAN) — Austin’s first West Nile Virus case of the year has been reported along with two other cases — one in Dallas and one in Galveston. 

But as a Central Texas family found out a little less than two years ago, the virus can be deadly.

“The hardest thing I ever did in my life — and I don’t want any family to ever go through this — was holding my grandson when he passed away,” said Rosalee Kibby.

Cody Hopkins’ life was cut short at the age of 13 from West Nile encephalitis. A mosquito bite ultimately led to his last breath in October of 2016.

“Cody’s favorite song was “One man can change the world’ and Cody’s not here to do that, but we are,” said Kibby. 

She’s been spreading awareness about West Nile, talking to lawmakers and testifying before the state’s infectious disease task force.

“My question to them was why do we have a vaccine for horses and not for people?” said Kibby.

Cody’s father, Greg Lashmet, says there is an FDA approved vaccine that’s already gone through the first two stages of testing, but nobody can get the funding to put it through phases three and four.

Lashmet says West Nile case statistics do not provide a true picture of the lives it affects because many doctors don’t test for it, and most people don’t take it very seriously because they think people’s immune systems can fight it off.

“It affects everybody a little bit differently,” said Lashmet. “Even a healthy 13-year-old boy with a strong immune system, no health issues. It took his life, so if it took his life it can take anybody’s life.”

Coming up on Oct. 6, Cody’s family is putting on another bull riding benefit in his honor called the Cody Hopkins Invitational. Bull riding is a rodeo sport he loved. This year it will be in Bastrop at Mayfest Hill Park.

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