If you’ve ever lived in a warm, humid location, you know about mosquitoes. Myself, I’ve called rural Kentucky and South Florida home, and let me tell you: Those tiny, needle-nosed insects can attack without warning.
Their ubiquity caused more than a few scares when the Zika virus made headlines a few years ago. But mosquitoes have been spreading less exotic illnesses since time immemorial.
In Africa, they’ve led to malaria epidemics. And here in the United States, they cause equally devastating illnesses as one North Carolina mother learned.
LoriAnne Surrett never imagined the pain a single mosquito bite could cause. WBNS reported that her six-year-old son Noah was feeling poorly one day in August.
Like most parents, Surrett thought that it was a simple illness that he’d soon shrug off. “We (were) on our way to my mother-in-law’s house, and my six-year-old Noah started crying saying his head was hurting,” she wrote on Facebook.
“I gave him some children’s pain medicine, and he seemed okay after a few minutes. Him and his older two brothers begged to stay with their nana and papa and I said, ‘Okay, that’s fine.’”
Only it wasn’t fine, not at all. Surrett would soon get a phone call that every parent dreads.
“Carmon said, ‘LoriAnne, something is wrong, Noah’s not acting right, he won’t answer us.’” Surrett said. “She said, ‘I’m calling 911, get here now,’ and hung up.”
When Surrett arrived, Noah lay limply, his gaze fixed and his lips blue. First responders said that he’d had a seizure.
Why? The physicians who examined him at Asheville’s Mission Hospital came up with a chilling diagnosis: Noah had La Crosse encephalitis, a rare mosquito-borne illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, La Crosse encephalitis doesn’t always have horrible side effects. But when it does hit, it hits hard.
“Some of those who become ill develop severe neuroinvasive disease (disease that affects the nervous system),” the CDC fact sheet states. “Severe LACV disease often involves encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) and can include seizures, coma, and paralysis.
“Severe disease occurs most often in children under the age of 16. In rare cases, long-term disability, or death can result from La Crosse encephalitis.”
Treatment options for La Crosse encephalitis are limited. Antibiotics do nothing against the viral illness, and the only thing hospitals can do is ensure a patient receives adequate liquids and support the patient’s breathing.
For Noah, he remained mostly unresponsive for five horrible days, but on August 9, he started communicating again. Surrett is thankful that he’s recovering and hopes other parents will take appropriate measures to guard against mosquitoes.
“I dont want to see another baby go through this,” she wrote. “Use (sic) big spray on your kids, check for bites, it’s not 100 percent preventable obviously, but do what you can to try.”
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