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Minnesota boy diagnosed with rare tick-borne disease

The boy is believed to have contracted the disease from a tick in the Buffalo area.

A baby boy has been in intensive care at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis for the past week after he contracted a rare tick-borne illness in his hometown of Buffalo, Minnesota. 

Gino Pahl was rushed to Children's Hospital on Tuesday, May 18, and given a 50% chance to the survive the night, according to family who have kept track of Gino's condition through a CaringBridge page, and more recently a GoFundMe campaign. 

Gino was initially diagnosed with hand foot and mouth disease, but when he was taken to a clinic on May 18 the doctors ran blood tests and immediately sent them to Children's, where Gino was sedated and placed on a ventilator in critical but stable condition. 

Gino has since been diagnosed with two rare diseases: Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a bacterial infection caused by ticks that can cause serious damaged to internal organs if not promptly treated. The illness, which is most commonly found in the southeastern U.S., is known for causing a severe headache and high fever that eventually leads to a rash on the wrists and ankles. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, HLH can be genetic or acquired. In Gino's case it was activated by the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, according to the CaringBridge journal. 

In a May 20 journal entry, Gino's family said he never left Buffalo so he must've contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick a in Buffalo. 

"How does one get this? A wood tick," the post says. "What I want to share is that since it so rare in MN it’s often overlooked. Even our pediatrician has never seen a case. Gino is so sick because they believe the infection triggers HLH. If your kiddos or family get a fever followed by spots please don’t overlook this. Bring it up to your doctor. I would hate for anyone to go through what we are and Gino is. Gino hasn’t left Buffalo so he did contract it there."

KSTP-TV reports that Gino's sister was also diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease and is now being monitored and treated just in case the same tick or a different tick possibly infected her with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. 

A GoFundMe for the family will help pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses, with any excess funds being donated to Children's Minnesota and the Ronald McDonald House.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is aware of the rare tick-borne case and investigating. The CDC says that 4,000 to 6,000 tick-borne diseases are reported in the U.S. every year, though 60% of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever cases are diagnosed in five states: North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. 

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