6-Year-Old Left With Seizures, Brain Swelling From Mosquito Bite

ASHEVILLE, NC — When LoriAnne Surrett went shopping with her husband, mother-in-law and kids last week, everything seemed fine. The kids were laughing and playing ball. But then her 6-year-old son Noah started to cry — he complained of a splitting headache. Days later, the Asheville boy was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit, fighting for his life with meningitis-like symptoms. And it all stemmed from a mosquito bite.

On Sunday, Aug. 5, Surrett’s phone rang. It was her mother-in-law, Carmon. It would become the “scariest call of my life,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

“LoriAnne something is wrong,” her mother-in-law said. “Noah’s not acting right.”

Carmon was right. The boy’s lips turned a shade of blue. His eyes were fixed, staring straight up. His body was completely limp. His temperature was 102 degrees. He had a seizure.

Surrett freaked out. She ran to her car and sped off to Canton, about 20 minutes west, as fast she could. By the time she arrived, emergency personnel were already there evaluating Noah. They gave him fluids to stabilize him and rushed him to Mission Health. Along the way, he had another seizure. He nearly seized a third time when EMS workers gave him medicine to treat the second seizure.

Once at the hospital, doctors gave him a battery of tests. His spinal tap results confirmed he had contracted the La Crosse encephalitis virus, caused by a mosquito bite. There are only about 70 cases of LAC encephalitis reported each year in America, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And historically, most of those cases originate in the upper Midwest. But recently, more cases have been reported in mid-Atlantic and southeastern states.

While many people infected with the virus show no apparent symptoms, those who do typically experience fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and tiredness. But others can experience even worse — sometimes fatal — symptoms.

“Some of those who become ill develop severe neuroinvasive disease (disease that affects the nervous system),” the CDC writes. “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, the virus can lead to long-term disability or even death. And there is no specific treatment for an LACV infection — care is based on the symptoms.

Surrett said the virus had put fluid around her son’s brain — hence the excruciating headache. He had to be moved to the pediatric ICU unit.

Three days later, her spunky son Noah, drugged up with a host of antibiotics, seizure medication and pain relievers, was left sleeping nearly the entire day. Surrett said he became responsive only a few times a day, mainly when the pain meds wore off and he felt discomfort. She told NBC News she feared her son might not ever recover.

“Then all of a sudden, at 3 o’clock that day, he just sat up in bed and started talking to me,” she said. “It was just mind-blowing how much — just in a matter of minutes it’s like he’d come to life.”

Eventually, Noah recovered well enough to go home. A family friend created a GoFundMe account to help the family with the unforeseen medical costs. The account seeks to raise $5,000.

“I am a mother of 5 boys and I am a firm believer in bug spray and all that 2 keep the bugs away and it still happened to my little man,” she wrote.

Now, Surrett wants other parents to know her story.

“I don’t want to see another baby go through this, they said it’s like meningitis so they are treating it the same way,” she wrote. “Use big spray on your kids check for bites, it’s not 100% preventable obviously but do what you can to try.”

Patch has reached out to the family and will update when we hear back.

GoFundMe is a Patch promotional partner.

Photo credit: GoFundMe

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