East Tennessee family warns about mosquito-borne illness

(AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

LUTRELL, Tenn. (WATE) – Katrina Sharp lost her 6-year-old nephew to the mosquito-borne illness La Crosse encephalitis in July 2012.

“He had another seizure and he collapsed in the hallway floor of the hospital, and he went into a coma,” said Sharp. “We knew it was something really serious. We just didn’t know it was something caused by a bug.”

Skyler’s family had to make the heart-wrenching decision to take him off life support.

Previous story: East Tennessee Children’s Hospital reports rise of mosquito-borne encephalitis cases

“We made sure we told him who all was there,” said Sharp. “Who all sends there kisses and hugs to him and to let him he know he was loved a lot and that he was going to be okay, but we all knew he wasn’t going to be.”

The illness caused Skyler to have a fever, seizures and eventually he fell into a coma when his brain began to swell. Brain swelling is one of the extreme symptoms caused by the virus according to Dr. Martha Buchanan with the Knox County Health Department.

“La Crosse causes fever, headache, they might have some nausea, but they are going to have pain when they move their head because think about the lining inside your brain is inflamed,” said Buchanan.

Buchanan says La Crosse is rarely fatal but warns people to take preventative measures seriously.

“You always ask yourself, ‘What could I have done more? How come we didn’t protect him?”’ said Sharp. “Just got to educate yourself because it can happen, it does happen and it did to us.”

Buchanan says only one case of La Crosse encephalitis has been confirmed in Knox County. She also says the type of mosquito that can carry the disease is only mainly active during the day and stays close if where it hatched making it hard to spray for them.

She urges people to wear bug spray and long clothing during all hours of the day while outside.

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