WAYNESVILLE, NC (Carla Field/WYFF) - A 6-year-old Western North Carolina boy is recovering from a mosquito-borne disease that left him with agonizing headaches and seizures in an intensive care unit.
LoriAnne Jenkins Surrett is sharing her son Noah's story on Facebook in hopes of educating other parents.
Surrett describes herself as a stay-at-home mom.
"My life revolves around my five sons," she said. "God chose me to be a mommy and I take that title very seriously."
Surrett said she, her husband, her mother-in-law and her children went shopping on Aug. 4. She said all was well, and the children were laughing and "cutting up and having a ball."
She said her 6-year-old suddenly started crying and saying his head was hurting. She said she gave him children's pain medication, and he seemed fine within a few minutes, and he and his older brothers asked to stay overnight at their grandmother's house in Canton.
The next morning, Surrett called her mother-in-law, who said the children were all OK, but Noah still had a headache. She told her to give him more pain medication and to lie on the couch and relax and she would come pick him up.
Surrett said a short time later, she got the "scariest call of her life."
"Noah's not acting right," her mother-in-law said. "He won't answer us."
Surrett said, "I heard my father in law in the background saying, 'He's not himself. Something ain't right.
Her mother-in-law said, 'I'm calling 911. Get here now,' and she hung up.
Surrett and her husband left their Waynesville home, and by the time they reached Noah, an emergency medical crew was already checking him out.
"Noah's lips were blue and his eyes fixed looking up and he was completely limp," Surrett said.
Before he was rushed to the hospital, Noah had a seizure, followed by two more in the ambulance.
Testing at Mission Hospital determined that Noah had La Crosse encephalitis. The disease causes fluid to accumulate around the brain, which is what caused Noah's headache. Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, which can cause seizures, coma and paralysis.
Surrett said Noah slept most of the next several days before he fully woke up five days later. He has since been released from the hospital under a strict care regime, and he is making progress at home, Surrett said.
More on La Cross encephalitis, symptoms and prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say many infected people have no apparent symptoms, but those who get sick can experience fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and tiredness. Some of those who become ill develop severe disease that affects the nervous system, often involving encephalitis. Severe disease occurs most often in children under the age of 16.
There is no specific treatment for La Crosse encephalitis, and in rare cases, long-term disability or death can result from the disease.
La Crosse encephalitis virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most cases of LACV disease occur in the upper Midwestern and mid-Atlantic and southeastern states.
The CDC says the best way to reduce your risk of infection with LACV or other mosquito-borne viruses is to prevent mosquito bites. Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks or even stay indoors while mosquitoes are most active.
"I am a mother of five boys and I am a firm believer in bug spray and all that to keep the bugs away, and it still happened to my little man," Surrett said. "Use bug spray on your kids. Check for bites. It's not 100 percent preventable, obviously, but do what you can to try."
CDC statistics show cases of diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas tripled from 2004 to 2016, from less than 30,000 cases to more than 90,000 cases.