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Pennsylvania boy recovering from rare tick-borne disease

Pennsylvania boy recovering from rare, tick-borne disease
Pennsylvania boy recovering from rare, tick-borne disease 02:07

A Pennsylvania boy is recovering after a rare tick-borne disease left him with a severe life-threatening infection. The number of reported cases of Powassan Virus Disease have increased in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Jamie Simoson says her 3-year-old son Jonny is recovering from the severe infection caused by Powassan virus. "Right now he's doing really well," she says.

Simoson spotted a tick a couple of weeks before Jonny got sick with a headache and high fever. She took him to the doctor but headed to the emergency room when he continued to deteriorate. Simoson says, "July 2nd is what we call our worst day. That's when we were transferred to Geisinger pediatric intensive care."

Jonny was diagnosed with Meningoencephalitis. Dr. Swathi Gowtham, Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Geisinger Janet Weis Children's Hospital says, "Meningitis means the covering of the brain gets inflamed and encephalitis means the brain cells themselves can get inflamed. And this virus can cause both."

Dr. Gowtham says with no proven treatments, care usually includes fluids, oxygen, and seizure medications. In Jonny's case, doctors decided to try IVIG therapy, an infusion of filtered antibodies from blood donors. 

"What intravenous immunoglobulin is it is other people's immune system. Jonny responded very well. Whether it is due to IVIG, I cannot really say, more studies need to be done," she says.

Jonny went home after nearly two weeks in the hospital. He receives rehabilitation, speech, occupational and physical therapy.

Simoson says, "He has some clear left side weaknesses. His speech has regressed just a little. And cognitively, I would say he's not necessarily where he was before. But we're really confident that the progress that he has made will just continue."

And the family is raising awareness about tick-borne illnesses. 

 "If we could just help one person get treatment sooner or recognize a symptom sooner or prevent the tick in the first place, everything that we went through would be worth it. And he's going to be okay," says Simoson.

Preventing tick bites is key. Use insect repellants, and check your body and clothing for ticks when you have been outside. 

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