EEE virus survivor describes horrific health battle after it almost killed her

Kaylee Hardenbrook nearly died five years ago after contracting Eastern equine encephalitis, which has no cure or vaccine. There have been 28 cases so far this year, making it the worst on record.
7:15 | 10/01/19

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Transcript for EEE virus survivor describes horrific health battle after it almost killed her
It was really scary because I couldn't even walk into the emergency room. I had to be like wheeled in. Reporter: Kalie Hardenbrook, once a healthy mother of two young children, was on the verge of death. At first she was stricken with flu-like symptoms. I wasn't hungry. I wasn't thirsty. All I wanted to do was sleep. Reporter: So she went to a hospital. But doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong. They sent me home. She said I was just dehydrated. A couple days later I went back to the same hospital. Same result. Sent me home again. Then I had a seizure. My husband had to put me in the his hifr happened to run the neuro unit in the hospital. I remember looking at her, I told her, Theresa, I think I'm going to die. And then that was the last thing I remembered. Reporter: Kaley slipped into a coma. Meanwhile, doctors worked to figure out what was making her so sick. They diagnosed her with a rare and deadly mosquito-borne virus called ee, eastern equine encephalitis. There is no cure and no FDA-approved vaccine. Doctors told her family the outlook was grim. I made arrangements for the kids to come in and kind of like say their good-byes. And I'm pretty sure I fought with everything I could to be here for them. Reporter: The road to recovery was long and difficult. One month in the hospital. Eight weeks of rehab. They told me that there's a chance I would never walk again. I'm like, well, that's definitely not going to happen. You don't know me. I have two small boys. I had to learn how to use the bathroom again. Reporter: Now five years after eee almost killed her the same virus is popping up in states across the U.S. New game plan against eee. The mosquito-borne illness. Is the worst it's been -- It can be potentially deadly. Reporter: Including in Kailee's home town of pawpaw Michigan. Odds of me getting it again are slim to none but it is terrifying that it's right in your back door. It can really strike anyone of any age. Reporter: The disease has claimed at least nine lives in four states including Michigan, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. This is a serious public health concern. Reporter: There are reportedly around 30 confirmed or probable cases in seven states. Those diagnosed with eee are fighting for their lives. Like 5-year-old Sophia Garabedian. After several weeks in Boston children's hospital she's recovered enough to be moved to a rehab facility. Communities in affected areas aren't taking any chances. Pawpaw school district superintendent Rick Rio sent home cautionary letters. We've gotten information out to our parents regarding safety precautions that they can use to keep their kids safe. Reporter: They're also hitting the brakes on nighttime football games. All of our contests have to be played before dusk. They've tried to get everything done before the sun goes down. The other things that they've done is recommended mosquito spray and, you know, bug preventative stuff. It's affecting everything around here as far as homecomings and Friday night lights. It's hard to say which part of the population is more at risk for eee virus. One of the factors is which part of the population is outside. Is it retired people that are gardening a lot? Are the children outside doing activities? Reporter: In Bristol county, Massachusetts, 59-year-old Laurie Sylvia and 78-year-old James Longworth both died from eee infections in the past month. There really is no steady predictor as to which community this is going to pop out in. Even though it's known as an east coast virus there are just as many cases in Michigan in the last decade as there had been in Massachusetts before this year. Reporter: In Michigan 14-year-old Savannah D. Hart was hospitalized last month after contracting the virus. Her mom says it's been an emotional roller coaster. Our whole lives have been flipped upside down. The tears flow just when they flow. They just come out whenever they want at this point. Reporter: Savannah is now in a rehabilitation center, but her mom says she has very extensive brain damage as a result of the It's just one day at a time we're taking it with her right now. That's all we can do really. I just want to hug her, kiss her, tell her I love her, and I want her to be able to hug me back. Reporter: Symptoms of eee develop four to ten days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Eee cases may vary in severity. Some are characterized by chills, fever, muscle and joint pain and usually subside within one to two weeks. Other cases have neurological involvement and are far more extreme. So infection with eee virus causes flu-like symptoms. It will start with headache, lethargy, fever, and it can progress to neurological symptoms, disorientation, and in severe cases lead to coma and then even death. Reporter: About 1/3 of eee cases with neurological involvement are deadly according to the CDC. Many who survive eee are left with permanent neurological damage. But still the disease is very rare. Between 2009 and 2018 there were 72 reported cases of neuro-invasive eee in which the virus infects the brain. By comparison during that same time period there were more than 12,000 reported case of neuro-invasive west nile virus. Of those one out of ten died. There is a bit of an alarmist quality right now with the media reports given that it is so rare. But it only takes one bite. And with a 40% to 60% fatality this is a real risk that people need to take seriously. Reporter: Over the past month Massachusetts has undertaken aerial and ground spraying. This is a serious issue for the commonwealth, and we will continue to devote the talent, the resources and the time to helping our community partners and to preparing for the future. Reporter: In framingham, Massachusetts public schools are canceling outdoor recess until temperatures cool. It's a difficult decision. I know people are not too happy about that. The first frost can't come soon enough for us frankly. Reporter: People anyone effectived areas are encouraged to use bug spray, wear long sleeves, closed toe shoes and hats. Removing trash and standing water can also help. We've walked our grounds at our maintenance department and working at eliminating any standing water because that's a breeding ground. Some schools, including ours, are looking at doing? Spraying around the wet areas around the school district. Reporter: Medical officials say mosquitos may stay active even as temperatures cool. The first hard frost of the season will likely end this year's mosquito worries. What did you do today? Reporter: As for Kaylee, she says she's just lucky to be alive. My doctors told me pretty much the whole time that I was lucky that I was young and I was healthy. And like I said, I just really always kept a positive attitude. I mean, if I'm going to go out, I'm going to go out in a way cooler way than a mosquito bite. Reporter: Her biggest priority now is keeping her two children, ages 5 and 8, safe. I typically spray them in the morning. Recently just because it's been getting so bad. I try not to be like a worrywart. But if you do get it, it's scary.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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