October 5, 2022

A Pennsylvania toddler contracted a rare tick-borne illness that required hospitalization after the beetle bit him while swimming in a neighbor’s pool.

Jamie Simoson, of Harveys Lake, said she was “terrified” after her three-year-old Jonathan was infected with the rare Powassan virus, which caused inflammation of the brain and thin tissue around it.

The rare disease left her once energetic boy in a hospital bed for 12 days in June, before being discharged as he continued to battle cognitive problems and weakness with the left half of his body.

“He seems to have deteriorated a bit cognitively, but we are optimistic that his resilience will see him through it,” she told the paper. New York Post.

Johnathan Simoson, 3, of Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania, was hospitalized for 12 days after a tick bit him while swimming in a neighbor’s pool

The tick (pictured) transmitted the rare Powassan virus, which caused inflammation of the brain and the thin tissue surrounding it

Mom Jamie Simoson said the tick must have been on him for only 15 minutes and said she was terrified as his condition worsened, leaving doctors baffled at first

The young boy is currently recovering but his mother says he still has cognitive problems and weakness with the left half of his body

WHAT IS THE RARE POWASSAN VIRUS?

The Powassan virus is an extremely rare disease carried by only 1 to 2 percent of Ixodes scapularis ticks in the American Midwest and Northeast.

Unlike Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, which can take hours or days to clear, Powassan virus can be transmitted in 15 minutes or less, and symptoms can take hours to appear.

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With only seven or eight cases reported per year, experts believe that most people who become infected after a tick bite produce antibodies that neutralize the infection and don’t even know they’ve ever been infected.

Symptoms often include fever, vomiting, muscle weakness, headache, confusion, lack of coordination, speech problems, memory problems, and seizures.

In severe cases, it can lead to meningoencephalitis, which causes inflammation of the brain and the thin tissue around it.

Source: Columbia University Medical Center

Simoson said Johnathan was having fun swimming in their neighbor’s pool on June 15 when she noticed a speck on his shoulder, a tick no bigger than a pen tip.

“It wasn’t embedded. It wasn’t stuffed up. I easily removed it with tweezers, and it was still alive,” Simoson told the Post, pointing out that it must have been on him for only 15 minutes.

“He didn’t have marks on his back shoulder until a few days later,” she added.

“There was only a small red bump. That was it.’

Unlike Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, which can take hours or days to clear, Powassan virus can be transmitted in 15 minutes or less, and symptoms can take hours to appear.

Simoson said the toddler seemed unaffected by the bug bite, but about two weeks later, she got a call from his daycare to tell her that Johnathan seemed ill.

The playful boy had gone ‘mopey’ and complained of a headache, with symptoms only getting worse over the next few days.

After two doctor visits, Jonathan developed a fever of over 104 degrees and was unresponsive to treatments.

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As doctors ran test after test, scratching their heads over what could be wrong with the boy, Simoson said her family was getting desperate.

“That’s when it got really scary,” Simoson said CBS 42. “It was so frustrating to look for an answer.

“We were terrified that we might not come home with our child.”

Doctors ran several tests on Jonathan until an MRI scan revealed swelling in the brain. Five rounds of intravenous immunoglobulin treatments led to a rapid recovery

Johnathan’s family (pictured) works to aid him in his recovery as his mother now pleaded for blood donations

Pictured: Johnathan enjoys himself after being released from hospital isolation wing

After an MRI, a doctor was eventually able to diagnose Jonathan with meningoencephalitis, which was causing the swelling in the head, and allowed the doctors to give the boy appropriate treatment.

After overnight intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), a treatment for antibody deficient patients, Jonathan’s condition slowly began to improve when he started speaking again.

“It was great,” Simoson told the Post. “That was the first time since the whole situation started that my husband and I were both completely broke.”

As the family focuses on the toddler’s recovery, Simoson has become an advocate for blood donations, believing the IVIG made a difference in saving her son.

Jonathan had received five doses of IVIG, and his mother and doctors saw consistent improvements in his condition after each treatment.

“We’re very confident, it can’t be proven, but we know deep down that IVIG was the turning point for Johnny, and if we can do something to help someone else get that treatment quickly, that’s really our goal.” ‘, she said.

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