Signs and symptoms of encephalitis as a tick bite affects the toddler’s ability to talk, walk and eat

When three-year-old Jonny jumped out of his neighbor’s pool, mom Jamie Simoson noticed a tiny dot on his right shoulder blade.

When she discovered it was a tick — a tick smaller than the tip of a pen — she calmly removed the parasite with tweezers and wrapped the play date.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Jonny spent 12 days in hospital after being bitten by a tick.

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Weeks later, her normally “feral” cub was unable to walk, speak, or eat.

The three-year-old was battling a life-threatening brain infection.

“One tiny tick could have taken our sweet boy,” Jamie tells 7Life.

Doctors determined that Jonny had a rare brain infection. Recognition: Facebook/jonnysjourney11

Small tick

Lively, energetic and fun-loving, Jonny from the USA loved his swim dates with his ‘bestie’ next door.

That day had been no different, and neither mother nor son had been unduly concerned about the appearance of the tick on his shoulder that day.

“The tick detached immediately and was still alive,” adds Jamie, explaining that it didn’t appear to be embedded in Jonny’s skin.

The tick removed from Jonny’s shoulder blade was smaller than the tip of a pen. Recognition: Facebook/jonnysjourney11

However, knowing what diseases ticks can carry, the mother called her local doctor.

He wasn’t worried either. Jonny showed no signs of illness or illness, so Jamie kept an eye on the small red bump on her son’s skin.

Everything was fine for two weeks.

Until the daycare called and asked Jamie to pick up Jonny, who wasn’t feeling well.

Jamie was confused – just that morning their little boy had happily eaten his breakfast and was running around in the garden playing with his water gun.

But as soon as she saw her son, she knew something was terribly wrong.

After two weeks, the three-year-old boy began to complain of severe headaches. Recognition: Facebook/jonnysjourney11

“Jonny started acting gloomy, not himself, and complaining of a headache,” she explains, adding that she took him to the pediatrician for a check-up.

But after an investigation, the doctor handed the mum a script after telling her whatever Jonny had was “viral and needs to run its course.”


For two days, Jamie took Jonny back and forth to doctors who gave him more medication for the “viral infection.”

The mother felt helpless as she watched her boy getting worse by the hour.

“Jonny’s symptoms continued to worsen,” she says.

“He became difficult to arouse and was very lethargic. Even with ibuprofen, he still complained of headaches.”

At the third doctor’s visit, Jonny’s fever was dangerously high and he was sent to an emergency.

Specialists began conducting tests to find out what was attacking the boy – when his body began to shut down.

During Jonny’s 12-day hospital stay, his condition worsened. Recognition: Facebook/jonnysjourney11

Doctors began treating him for a number of suspected illnesses while Jamie asked them to investigate the potential of a tick-borne illness.

“First we were shocked, then angry because nobody could tell us what caused it,” says Jamie.

“I was so angry because I was adamant that the tick bite had something to do with it.”

Days passed as doctors continued to search for an answer.

When the boy’s condition continued to deteriorate, he was transferred to a specialized children’s hospital and transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit.

A team of specialists then focused on his brain – and began investigating a possible cerebral hemorrhage or abscess.

brain infection

While a mass was quickly ruled out, an MRI revealed swelling.

And as neurologists dug further, they discovered that Jonny was battling meningoencephalitis — an infection of both the brain and surrounding tissues.

The condition is usually caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite, or other microorganism.

“[We were]terrified when we got the MRI results…it all seemed unreal,” says Jamie.

The boy was immediately given medication to treat the infection and was slowly showing signs of improvement.

Jonny learned to eat again after being unable to eat for five days. Recognition: Facebook/jonnysjourney11

Just 15 hours into the treatment, Jonny opened his eyes and asked his mother for a slice of pepperoni pizza.

After five days of his silence, the mother was moved to tears by her son’s simple request.

Still recovering from the virus that nearly killed him, Jonny was unsteady on his feet and unable to eat or drink.

Despite ongoing care, he was discharged from the hospital after 12 days and continued therapy at home.

While Jonny was happy to be home, he was struggling with his lengthy recovery.

“He still couldn’t walk, had cognitive decline and was frustrated because he didn’t understand his own limitations,” explains Jamie.

Three days after being hospitalized, Jamie received word that Jonny had also tested positive for Powassan virus – a rare disease in North America caused by a virus transmitted through the bite of infected ticks.

Since the virus can be transmitted in just 15 minutes, the mother is still shocked that Jonny almost killed a tick in this short time.


It’s been two months since the bug took hold of Jonny and he still goes to therapy regularly.

“He’s almost back to normal,” Jamie smiles.

“Therapy was helpful, but we made a commitment to work with him every day and have seen great progress.

The three-year-old has since returned to daycare and is still in therapy. Recognition: Facebook/jonnysjourney11

“We’re not entirely sure about his future yet.

“It will likely have some long-term effects of meningoencephalitis resulting from the swelling, but little is known about the long-term effects of Powassan virus due to its rarity.”

Despite the strangers, Jonny is back in daycare – and making rings around his parents.

Jamie wants other parents to trust their intuition and know the dangers of ticks.

“We are so happy to be able to share his story. If it just gets to one person and helps get them treated sooner, everything we’ve been through will be worth it,” she says.

You can follow Jonny’s recovery here.

Boat caught on fire in Florida.

Boat caught on fire in Florida.

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James Brien

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