A mum has issued a warning to other parents after her baby ended up with a viral brain infection that caused her to have seizures.
Bec Kinross, 39, was horrified to find her baby, Sam, had caught the virus two weeks earlier from a mosquito bite.
By sharing her son’s story, Bec wants to remind parents to be extra vigilant when outdoors.
She and her family were camping in a caravan park in Victoria, Australia when Sam was bitten.
Unusually, the four-month-old showed no obvious signs of mosquito bites after the January 26 incident, according to 7News.
However, her son started developing symptoms a fortnight later, including a high fever of 38C and a seizure, so she called the emergency number.
Bec said: “I was absolutely numb. The ambulance took 20-25 minutes to get here and I honestly didn’t think they would get there in time.”
Sam was taken to intensive care at the Royal Children’s Hospital and was initially diagnosed with viral meningitis.
But on Wednesday, doctors confirmed the baby had contracted the dangerous Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV).
JEV is spreading across Australia and has already claimed the lives of two people in less than a month.
Recent flooding in eastern Australia has created an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Bec said she didn’t remember spotting a mosquito on Sam during a family getaway with her partner Luke.
She said: “Thinking back to the trip, I never saw a mozzie on him the whole time we were camping.
“I didn’t even notice a mozzie bite on Sam. No bites were seen on him in the two weeks before or after.
“He had a hot head and back – hot enough that the wet puck we used on his head heated up very quickly and we kept changing it.”
Sam woke up around 10:30 p.m. with stiff arms and limp lower limbs.
“He woke up from a sleep on top of me in our bed with eyes shining,” Bec said.
“Sam was looking at what I thought was our ceiling fan, but his eyes flicked to the left and he was stiff in his arms and his lower limbs were limp.
“He started convulsing so we called triple-0. Luke was a lot calmer because he knew I was a mess and he had to take matters into his own hands.”
At the time, no one knew anything about infected mosquitoes spreading JEV.
Sam spent two weeks in the hospital where he had several seizures, several tests including a lumbar puncture, a course of 10 days of antibiotics and 21 days of antivirals.
“It wasn’t until we got home, continuing hospital care with daily visits, that the doctor called to confirm that the JEV results came back positive,” Bec said.
Sam – who is now five months old – is doing better, but still requires fortnightly doctor visits and is on twice-daily anti-epileptic medication for the foreseeable future.
The mum said: “My anxiety levels are at an all time high, every day, worrying as this variant of encephalitis is uncharted territory for Australia.
“It breaks my heart to see our usual smiling, bubbly Sam going through this.
“Day by day… week by week, we have to monitor his progress and his milestones.”
Speaking to other parents, Bec said, “Dress [them] wear long clothes and use insect repellent.
“To all moms, always trust your mommy instincts.”
JEV is only spread by infected mosquitoes and is more common in rural areas.
It cannot be transmitted from person to person, or by eating the meat of an infected animal.
Most people with Japanese encephalitis have no symptoms.
But some will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain), which can be fatal or cause long-term neurological damage.
About 25-30% of those with symptoms die.
Bec also urged parents to take out ambulance cover for their babies after the family was slapped with a hefty bill.
She said: “We didn’t have hospital cover for Sam yet because it’s not something you’re concerned about so soon.
“As parents we are told to register with Medicare, Centrelink for paid parental leave and health check appointments – but never a reminder to sign up for ambulance coverage.
“And now we’re left with a bill for Sam’s triple-0 call.”
The family created a GoFundMe page to help cover their bills.