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14-Year-Old Girl Hospitalized With Rare Mosquito-Borne Illness

Even though summer is winding down, it's not entirely over. There are still plenty of summer related things that we need to be aware of. Mosquitoes and bugs are one of them. Mosquitoes are a total nuisance, but beyond that, their bites can actually make you really sick. One Michigan family is learning just how harmful they can be. Their daughter recently contracted an rare mosquito borne illness and is fighting for her life.

Savanah DeHart was diagnosed with EEE, Eastern Equine Encephalitis. EEE is a virus spread by mosquitoes that causes brain infections. It's extremely rare — there are usually only seven cases a year. While they're usually found in New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Florida, Savannah's case is the third in Michigan this year. In the time since her diagnosis, Savanah has lost the ability to speak and is on a ventilator. Her symptoms, according to her mother Kerri Dooley, began as a headache.

“Friday [August 16th], it got to the point where she didn’t want to move,” she explains to NBC 8. Savannah's family is still waiting for testing to confirm that she has EEE. About ten days post diagnosis, Dooley explains that her daughter's brain functions remain limited.

“She just kind of lays there for now,” she says. Her brain is trying to heal itself, and she can’t do anything until that happens. It’s been, probably the worst time of my life. I watched my daughter almost ‘check out’ … it’s the word we’ve been using right now.”

According to the CDC, those over 50 and under 15 are more susceptible to contracting EEE. Symptoms of EEE present themselves anywhere between four and ten days post contact. Many of the symptoms are flu-like: fever, chills, lethargy, and joint pain. One-third of those with EEE will die from the virus if it gets into their central nervous system. People who survive it will likely have mental and physical disabilities as a result. Because it's so rare, there is no vaccine.

Savanah Update - Day 13 (Friday) We started off with a good morning! She was able to localize and withdraw pain while...

Posted by Kerri Lynn Dooley on Friday, August 30, 2019

To keep people updated on Savannah's progress, Dooley has set up a Facebook page, #SavanahStrong. In her most recent update, Dooley explains, "We are at about 34 1/2 hours of no ventilator and that is exciting!" She also says that Savanah is more alert and "her eyes are now moving to the left side which is what she was lacking the last couple of days." They still have a long way to go, but it seems that the young girl is on her way.

Savanah Update - Day 16 (Monday) Today was a good day, we are getting into a semi routine at the hospital. She has...

Posted by Kerri Lynn Dooley on Monday, September 2, 2019

Sending love and well-wishes to Savanah and her family.

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