HARVEYS LAKE, Pa. (WBRE/WYOU) — Pediatric intensive care is the last place Jamie Simoson expected her 3-year-old son to be this summer, but it’s where he ended up after being bitten by a tick.
“It came on all of a sudden. He was fine jumping in the pool, eating ice cream, and the next day, he started complaining about a headache,” Simoson said of her son Jonathan.
Ticks are a big problem in Pennsylvania, and they are most commonly associated with the spread of Lyme disease. But the infection ticks can cause goes deeper than that.
Ticks are also to blame for a rare virus that’s affecting a growing number of Americans, including Jonathan, who is now on the road to recovery weeks after the tick bite.
Tests determined the tick that bit Jonathan outside his Luzerne County home in late June transmitted the rare Powassan virus, which then triggered meningoencephalitis, an inflammation or infection of the brain as well as the meninges, which are the layers of thin tissue covering the brain.
“He had every test under the sun. CT scan, MRI, before we found out what was happening,” said his mother. She was also “terrified” that Jonathan might not leave the hospital, she said.
Jonathan spent nearly two weeks in the hospital recovering but still exhibiting the lingering effects of the virus.
“He came home not able to walk on his own,” Simoson said.
He has since started walking again thanks to physical therapy, but he still faces recovery hurdles.
“Right now, we see some clear left-side weaknesses when it comes to his leg and his arm. Cognitively, he’s just not where he was before,” Simoson said.
But where he is now is something Jonathan’s mother could only have hoped for weeks earlier.
“Terribly scary, and we are just incredibly fortunate,” she said.
Simoson is now advocating for all parents to carefully check their children for ticks.
“This one was incredibly tiny. It was right on his back shoulder blade. And what’s most important, it was not embedded. It was not engorged. What they said is that it maybe had to be attached for 15 minutes,” said Simoson.
It’s uncertain whether Jonathan will make a full recovery, though so far his progress has been encouraging. His mom says he will be able to return to daycare in August or September.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more information on tick bites and the Powassan virus.