A Greater Toronto Area mother is hoping to raise public awareness about a disease that is rarely transmitted by mosquitos. However, this comes after her young child was hospitalized for more than a month after getting a mosquito bite.
Kathryn McKissock never thought letting her six-year-old son play outside of their Oshawa, Ont. home could lead to him developing a life-threatening disease.
“You always think that is never going to happen to you and it very much can,” McKissock said.
“It happened not camping, not anywhere deep off in any woods. It happened with my son playing on a swing set in the backyard.”
McKissock tells Global News she noticed a mosquito bite on her son, Cameron, after Canada Day. She says they didn’t look out of the ordinary, but soon after, he developed a fever and she noticed he was becoming very lethargic. His condition was worsening as the days passed.
“I just knew something was wrong,” the Oshawa mother said.
“I knew it was more than just a virus. Really, I thought meningitis, but I thought people were going to think I was crazy.”
But McKissock’s gut feeling proved to be true. Cameron was taken to SickKids, where he underwent countless tests and received medical opinions from a handful of physicians.
“(Cameron) was poked and prodded at for a while. It was pretty scary,” she said.
Cameron was eventually diagnosed with meningitis and encephalitis, also known as meningoencephalitis. The disease causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. McKissock says doctors told her the disease was caused by a virus called Jamestown Canyon.
“There are several different types of infections transmitted from different types of insects, usually ticks and mosquitos, that can cause meningoencephalitis,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician at the University Health Network.
“Fortunately, they are very rare, but they can unfortunately be very severe infections and cause very significant symptoms.”
Although rare, McKissock says she wants the public to know it is possible. While her six-year-old has since returned home after his hospitalization, the Oshawa mother remains in disbelief about how it all transpired.
“I’m still even a month later trying to wrap my head around how did a mosquito do that? And how do you even parent something like that now?”
Dr. Bogoch says while there is no way to fully prevent insect-transmitted infections, he recommends families reduce their risk by spraying themselves with bug spray when they go outside and check them for ticks or mosquitos. He says people can also wear long-sleeved clothing.
“We’re blessed with amazing summers in Canada. I really hope people go outside and enjoy these as much as possible,” he said.
He adds people should always seek medical help immediately if they experience symptoms like headaches, fever, drowsiness or decreased levels of consciousness.