Illness that killed Shreveport teen rare

By Fred Childers – bio|email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – 14-year-old Will Mathews died of Meningo Encephalitis, what doctors describe as an infection that affects the brain.

"It involves the brain and the tissues around the brain, not only the brain but the brain stem, and all the way down the spinal chord," said Dr. Joseph Bocchini, an infectious disease specialist at LSU Hospital.

One of the causes of the deadly disease is a mosquito bite.

"So it's rare, but it can be very serious," said Dr. Bocchini.

He says what happened to Will was rare.

"Even with a mosquito bite the chance of being infected and developing Meningo- Encephalitis is still pretty small, but that's a precaution parents can take, said Dr. Bocchini.

He says it's not uncommon to get the virus, but it is uncommon that it turns deadly.

"Well, the uncommon part is that the virus gets to the brain and causes an infection in the brain or the tissue surrounding the brain," said Dr. Bocchini.

In Will's case, the infection did affect his brain - and said to have caused his death.

But it's being described as isolated in this area, and a very rare occurrence.

While it might be rare, it's possible to get the illness from a mosquito bite - symptoms include headache, behavioral change or difficulty using an arm or a leg.

So physicians encourage you to take the normal precautions to avoid exposure, and remember the peak times for mosquitoes is at dusk and dawn.

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