Girl, 7, unable to recognise parents after catching disease from mosquito bite

A mum is warning about the dangers of mosquitoes after her seven-year-old daughter suffered terrifying seizures and hallucinations from an invisible bite.

Lauren Zehner, 7, was hospitalised after she was bitten by the infectious insect and was left unable to recognise her own parents for a short time.

She was diagnosed with a rare condition called La Crosse encephalitis, a viral disease, which is spread by the eastern tree hole mosquito.

It can easily be misdiagnosed and can cause paralysis in extreme cases.

Mum Holly became concerned about her daughter on Thursday, August 16 last year when her fever spiked to 105°F.

Doctors initially diagnosed Lauren with a typical urinary tract infection, but when she returned home the typically sweet-natured child became angry and disoriented.

While Holly, 33, nipped out to get a prescription her husband Jonathan Zehner, 39, became frightened by their daughter's condition.

Holly said: “As I pulled into the driveway, my husband came running out. He said something was really wrong with Lauren.

“When I went inside, she wasn’t responding to me. She was confused. She didn’t know who I was.

“She started to become angry. She was asking for water and when I brought it to her she threw the glass away.

“We called an ambulance and she was brought back to the same ER we had been to earlier that day.

“They couldn’t believe she was the same child. She was so combative they had to sedate her just to do her blood work, which she had done so easily just hours before.

“She’s a sweetheart usually, but she became out of her mind.”

Lauren was transferred by ambulance to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where scans revealed her brain was swelling.

She was immediately admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit where she was tested for meningitis and treated with antibiotics and antivirals.

Lauren was transferred to the Infectious Disease Unit after two days where she began to experience frightening seizures.

Holly said: “Her eyes were rolling back and her blood pressure skyrocketed.

"Lauren’s neurologist came in later that evening and said that they were seeing seizures in many recent cases of La Crosse encephalitis.

“Many people haven’t heard of it but it’s a mosquito borne virus.

“To be honest we did not remember her being bitten. The incubation period for this virus is up to two weeks so it could have happened at any point.

“In some children it can present as a simple flu, but in others like Lauren it can be very serious and life-threatening.”

Lauren suffered two more seizures over the course of two days and was prescribed anti-seizure medication as her body tackled the infection.

Holly said: “Lauren’s neuropsychologist told us that the illness could leave her with developmental delays.

"She told us that children who go through illnesses like this one typically are a year behind cognitively.

“I just was so grateful that she was alive that I didn’t even care. I knew we were going to be okay.”

Lauren was released from hospital six days after she was first admitted.

Holly said: “I was so terrified about bringing her home. I don’t think I slept for weeks.

“We bought a baby monitor because I was scared she would have a seizure in the middle of the night.

“The biggest thing was that when she came home she had a lot of anger issues. We discovered this was a side effect of her anti-seizure medication."

Since Lauren’s illness, Holly has become an advocate for raising awareness about the La Crosse virus and the impact it has on American communities.

She added: "A single mosquito bite could have a devastating impact on children.

"I feel like Lauren is 99.9 per cent back to the way she was, but we got very lucky.”

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