ASHEVILLE, N.C. - A 6-year-old North Carolina boy is in the Intensive Care Unit after getting infected with a rare mosquito-borne illness.
"His lips were blue, his eyes were fixed," said Noah Surrett’s mother, LoriAnne. "This is something that no parent should have to go through -- just over a mosquito bite."
Noah was diagnosed with La Crosse encephalitis, a rare disease that causes the brain to swell. Five days after being admitted to an Asheville hospital, Noah opened his eyes and spoke to his mother.
LoriAnne hopes her son’s story will be a warning to parents everywhere.
"He screams out in pain from the headaches, and he's really just like a zombie," she said.
Noah's mother said it started with severe headaches, then he began having seizures. Doctors said the incredibly rare disease can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.
"You want to watch, is the headache worsening, is the fever persisting?” said Dr. Sapna Parikh. “If pain relievers aren't working or if the child is becoming more and more lethargic or, like this family noticed, their child just didn't seem quite right, that's when you want to worry."
The CDC says illnesses from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas have tripled from 2004 to 2016, and doctors say children are especially vulnerable.
"I don't want to see another baby go through this," LoriAnne said. "Use bug spray on your kids, check for bites. It's not 100 percent preventable obviously, but do what you can to try."
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services officials confirmed the best way to reduce your risk of LACV is to wear insect repellent, wear long sleeves, and limit time outdoors when mosquitoes are most active.
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