Not knowing what is wrong with a sick child is heartbreaking.
Two area families have dealt with illnesses associated with mosquito-borne diseases and have struggled to find out what was wrong with their children. They hope their stories will help others in the future.
Gary and Julie Schutte's son Chase, 6, "is a very active boy," says his mother. "He loves playing baseball and soccer, and he's always outside riding his bike or four-wheeler and enjoys camping. He also enjoys adventuring into the woods and looks forward to going hunting when he gets older.
"In July ... after three days of Chase complaining of headaches and leading into vomiting, fever and not eating, we went to the local doctor .... Then we were in and out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center three times before finally being admitted."
Since doctors had not diagnosed his condition yet, the Sunman boy was put on antibiotics right away and testing began. All tests kept coming back negative, so he stayed on an antibiotic for four days before getting released. Children’s had sent out his remaining blood and spinal fluid for further testing. A week later, they called us with the results – positive for California encephalitis.
"With Chase being so active and always outdoors, we are not aware of exactly where he was in contact with the mosquito-borne illness. He spends most of his time in Ripley and Decatur counties. We are fortunate that he does not need to take any further medications, and he appears to be back in good health with no side effects. I have met other families who were not as fortunate, so we are very blessed to have our healthy son back," Schutte reveals.
"We hear every day through the media to use insect repellent. I cannot express this enough on how important this is. I don’t go anywhere without it, and I spray even when I don’t think it’s necessary. Education has improved just in the past few months on vector-borne illnesses, and I hope this continues."
She points out, "It is very frustrating as a parent to be seen by several doctors and not get answers. Don’t go home or give up. Fight for your loved ones."
Olivia Youngman, daughter of Joe and Deanna Youngman, Osgood, who has two older siblings, Shane and Adriana, was also diagnosed with California encephalitis.
Prior to being infected, "Olivia was very outgoing, funny, a good athlete and was able to complete her studies with ease. She enjoyed basketball and softball," says her mother.
In 2012, at the age of 11, she started showing symptoms, which included migraine headaches, severe fatigue, leg and back pain, visual disturbances and weight loss. It took about two-and-a-half weeks for physicians to determine what was causing her illness, her mother reports.
At first, she didn't receive any treatment, "but about six months later, they (doctors) discovered she had brain damage. She then became epileptic and was treated for seizures and chronic migraines. In 2015, she underwent brain surgery to remove the damaged areas, a portion of her right temporal lobe and her whole right hippocampus. She still suffers short- and long-term memory loss, struggles with learning and things that involve 'executive function' and depression."
Youngman, Margaret Mary Health's infection prevention coordinator, notes, "A virus from a mosquito bite was not the first or 10th thing that anyone thought about that could be causing her illness, but I knew something was wrong and felt helpless and frustrated. I just want others to be aware that this is something that is becoming more common in our area and to be aware of the signs and symptoms, so you can be an advocate for your loved one.
"Olivia’s illness was caused by a mosquito, but there are illnesses caused by ticks, also. These illnesses have no rhyme or reason. One child can recover 100 percent, another can recover, but suffer lifelong deficits, while another child may die from it.
"You can find information on how to prevent these diseases on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website, and through the local health department."
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.
Third in a three-part series
Part 1: Vector-borne diseases and symptoms, Oct. 6
Part 2: Reducing risks of becoming infected, Oct. 10