Massachusetts girl infected with rare mosquito-borne EEE virus gets massive support online

More than $100,000 has been raised for a young Massachusetts girl who contracted the potentially deadly mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus earlier this month, according to an online fundraiser in the girl’s name.

As of this writing, $146,133 was raised for Sophia Garabedian, a 5-year-old Sudbury girl who was rushed to Boston Children’s Hospital with sudden and severe flu-like symptoms, including headache, on Sept. 3. The fund’s goal is $200,000.

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The girl, who has suffered from brain swelling — medically known as encephalitis — was diagnosed with EEE on Sept. 6. A case of EEE in a female under the age of 18 was later confirmed by the Massachusetts Department of Health, with local outlets reporting it involved a 5-year-old girl from Middlesex County.

“Her parents have been at Children’s Hospital with her this entire time, and it has been truly heartbreaking for all of their family and friends. She remains in the ICU and while the family has a full medical insurance plan through their employer, the out-of-pocket medical costs will be massive,” the fund reads, noting the Garabedian family “will be the named beneficiary on this account and will receive the funds directly to be used for medical care and rehabilitation costs.”

"Prior to this sudden illness, she was a happy, loving little girl who loved playing with her friends and doing gymnastics."

— GoFundMe for 5-year-old Sophia Garabedian

“These costs include neurologist support as Sophia’s brain heals, physical therapy as she regains use of her body, and in-patient care for an extended period of time,” it adds.

An update posted to Sophia’s GoFundMe on Tuesday said she was showing signs of improvement and noted the swelling in her brain was beginning to subside. Though the young girl is officially in “fair condition,” the fund reads, she is unable to walk or talk and has “limited cognitive function.”

EEE  — a rare disease spread by infected mosquitoes — is known to cause brain inflammation. Survivors typically have mild to severe brain damage, per the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC). One-third of those infected with EEE die.

Symptoms of a severe EEE infection “begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting,” the CDC says.

There’s no specific treatment for the infection; antibiotics are not effective and no antiviral drugs have been discovered to date.

"Severe illnesses are treated by supportive therapy, which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections,” the federal health agency says.

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“Prior to this sudden illness, she was a happy, loving little girl who loved playing with her friends and doing gymnastics. She just graduated from preschool and had her first week of kindergarten before this terrible tragedy began,” Sophia’s GoFundMe reads. “She loved playing with her dolls, spending time at the beach, and playing with her dog Rocky.”

Nine cases of EEE have been confirmed in Massachusetts this year, according to state health officials. Five to 10 cases of the virus are typically reported in the U.S. each year.