Griswold toddler survives tick-borne Powassan virus

Liam Phillips (WTNH / Noelle Gardner)
powassan3 Griswold toddler survives tick borne Powassan virus
(WTNH / Noelle Gardner)

GRISWOLD, Conn. (WTNH) — Liam struggled to survive the first year of his life. His mom, Desiree Phillips says when Liam was five months old he became sick with the Powassan virus, a deadly tick-borne disease.

Desiree Phillips said, “He started with vomiting and a fever so we took him to his primary care.”

After a trip to the local hospital doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia. Days later his symptoms got worse. She added, “He seemed like he was getting a little bit better and then all of a sudden the fever went right up.”

Related Content: New Haven scientists busy testing ticks

powassan2 Griswold toddler survives tick borne Powassan virus
(WTNH / Noelle Gardner)

Liam had inflammation in the brain and nearly 30 seizures within 24 hours. Phillips told News 8, “He just kept coming in-and-out of them in-and-out of them.”

He was taken by Lifestar to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Phillips said, “They took X-rays, they took MRIs, he has two IVs in him, one in his hand, one in his foot. Me and my husband we were both terrified. we bought thought we were losing him.”

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powassan9 Griswold toddler survives tick borne Powassan virus
(WTNH / Noelle Gardner)

Desiree said Infectious disease specialist Dr. Nicholas Bennett identified the sickness as the Powassan virus. Dr. Bennett is the Medical director with the Infectious Diseases & Immunology unit at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Bennett said, “He had very deep inflammation, deep lesions and that’s unusual for brain infections.”

Desiree said they believe Liam was bitten by a tick brought in with his father’s hunting gear. Within a week of the tick bite Liam started having symptoms.

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Dr. Bennett said, “He had a clear history of a tick bite that was very short exposure but for Powassan you only need a short exposure to transmit the virus.”

Liam has scar tissue in his brain and is left-side dominant but has no serious long term damage. “That is very common for Powassan virus about half of the patients do have some kind of long term neurological weakness or damage from it. Some people make a full recovery,” said Dr. Bennett.


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