3-year-old Pennsylvania boy develops rare tick-borne disease while swimming in a neighbor’s pool

A young boy in Pennsylvania contracted a rare disease transmitted by ticks that left him in the hospital after being bitten by an insect while swimming in a neighbor’s pool.

Jamie Simoson, of Lake Harveys, said she was horrified after her three-year-old son, Jonathan, contracted the rare Poisan virus, which causes inflammation of the brain and surrounding soft tissues.

This rare disease left her once-active baby slung in a hospital bed for 12 days in June before being discharged as he continues to battle cognitive problems and weakness in the left half of his body.

“He appears to have regressed a little cognitively, but we are optimistic that his flexibility will help him with endurance,” she told the New York Post.

Jonathan Simoson, 3, of Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania, was hospitalized for 12 days after being bitten by a tick while swimming in a neighbor’s pool

The tick (pictured) transmitted the rare Poisson virus that caused inflammation of the brain and surrounding soft tissues.

Jonathan's mother, Jimmy Simoson, said the tick must have been on him for only 15 minutes, and she said she was panicked because his condition had worsened and the doctors were initially confused.

Jonathan’s mother, Jimmy Simoson, said the tick must have been on him for only 15 minutes, and she said she was panicked because his condition had worsened and the doctors were initially confused.

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

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

What is the rare Poisson virus?

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

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

Given that only seven or eight cases are reported each year, experts believe that most people who become infected after a tick bite make antibodies that neutralize the infection and do not even know they have had it.

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 leads to inflammation of the brain and the soft tissues around it.

Source: Columbia University Medical Center

Simonson said Jonathan was enjoying a swim in their neighbor’s pool on June 15 when she noticed a spot on his shoulder, a mark no bigger than a pen point.

It was not an integral part. He was not satisfied. ‘I easily removed it with a pair of tweezers, and he was still alive,’ Simoson told the newspaper, noting that he should only have been on it for 15 minutes.

“It wasn’t until a few days later that he showed necessarily any marks on his back shoulder,” she added.

There was a small red bump. This was him.’

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

Simoson said the baby seemed unfazed by the insect bite, but about two weeks later, she got a call from his day caretaker telling her that Jonathan seemed ill.

The flirtatious boy became “bleak” and complained of a headache, with symptoms worsening in the following days.

After two visits to the doctor, Jonathan developed a fever above 104 degrees, and showed no reaction to the treatment.

As doctors run test after test, scratching their heads about what could be wrong with the boy, Simoson said her family became desperate.

“Things got really scary at that point,” Simoson told CBS 42. “The search for an answer was so frustrating.

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

Doctors performed several tests on Jonathan until an MRI revealed swelling in the brain.  Five rounds of intravenous immunoglobulin treatments resulted in a speedy recovery

Doctors performed several tests on Jonathan until an MRI revealed swelling in the brain. Five rounds of intravenous immunoglobulin treatments resulted in a speedy recovery

Jonathan's family (pictured) is working to help him through his recovery as his mother advocates for blood donation

Jonathan’s family (pictured) is working to help him through his recovery as his mother advocates for blood donation

Pictured: Jonathan enjoying himself after being released from the hospital isolation ward

Pictured: Jonathan enjoying himself after being released from the hospital isolation ward

After an MRI, the doctor was eventually able to diagnose Jonathan with meningitis, which caused swelling in the head, and allowed the doctors to provide the boy with appropriate treatment.

After a night of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), a treatment for antibody-deficient patients, Jonathan slowly began to improve as he began to be able to speak again.

“It was amazing,” Simonson told the newspaper. “It was the first time since the whole situation began that my husband and I had completely collapsed.”

While the family focuses on the child’s recovery, Simonson has become a blood donor advocate, believing IVIG made the difference in saving her child.

Jonathan received five doses of IVIG, with his mother and doctors noting consistent improvement in his condition after each treatment.

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

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