- A child has contracted a rare, potentially deadly tick-borne virus, and one side of his body is now limp.
- Two weeks after the tick bite, he was taken to the hospital with a headache and a fever that exceeded 103 degrees Celsius.
- The boy was diagnosed with Powassan-virus and treated with unproven antibodies.
A young boy in Pennsylvania contracted a rare tick-borne virus while swimming in a neighbor’s pool and now limps on the left side of his body, according to news reports.
Jonny Simpson, 3, was healthy when his mother, Jamie, discovered a live tick in his right shoulder, she told the New York Post. Jamie Simoson told the newspaper she easily removed the tick with tweezers within 15 minutes, leaving a “small red bump.”
After two weeks, Simonson said, he started complaining of headaches, became unusually sleepy, and had a fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the New York Post.
After two visits to the pediatrician, Simon took Johnny to the emergency room. The next 12 days were a blur on MRI and CT scans, spinal taps, antibiotics, and antiviral medication as doctors investigated the cause of his symptoms, first on the general ward, then in the pediatric intensive care unit. Eventually, after ruling out other causes, doctors diagnosed him with meningoencephalitis caused by the Poisson virus, Simonson wrote in a blog.
“The search for an answer was so frustrating,” Simonson was quoted by the New York Post as saying. “We were terrified that we might not come home with our baby.”
Powassan virus, which is spread by deer ticks, is rare
People become infected with the Powassan virus from infected black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. It is usually diagnosed by a cerebrospinal fluid test.
The data shows that between six and 39 cases are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year, mostly in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region in late spring, early summer, and mid-fall, when deer ticks are most active.
Most people have no symptoms, but the virus can cause confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, and seizures if it affects the brain or its membranes.
According to the CDC, about one in 10 seriously ill people die from the Poisan virus, and about half of those who survive suffer long-term loss of muscle and strength.
Meningitis, according to Johnny’s diagnosis, is a serious condition in which the brain and the surrounding soft tissues become inflamed.
Johnny received antibody therapy
There are no proven medications for Poisin’s virus disease, so most people with severe illness are treated in hospital with supportive measures, including intravenous fluids and oxygen.
However, Johnny was treated with five doses of disease-fighting antibodies from blood donors, a treatment called intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, which has been used to treat lupus and children with heart disease.
Dr. Swathi Gotham, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Danville, Pennsylvania, who was involved in the case, told CBS Philly that Johnny responded “well” to treatment.
“Whether it’s due to IVIG, I can’t really say,” she said, adding that “more studies are needed” on the use of Poisan virus intravenous immunoglobulin.
Johnny was released from the hospital after 12 days, but he had a limp on one side of his body and needed physical rehabilitation and speech therapy. According to the New York Post, his parents had to teach him how to eat and drink again.
Simonson wrote, “Johnny was still not walking, and his balance was poor. We knew we had a lot of work to do but were ready for the challenge.”
“We’re really confident that the progress he’s made will continue,” Simon told CBS Willie.
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