Joseph Elone’s family says the Hudson Valley teen was sick for about two weeks before he suddenly collapsed and died
By Gus Rosendale | Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013 | Updated 10:14 AM EDT
A New York teenager who collapsed in his yard and later died may have been bitten by a tick carrying a deadly disease, his family says.
Seventeen-year-old Joseph Elone of Poughkeepsie, an honor roll student who wanted to become an environmental engineer, died shortly after midnight Aug. 5, according to his family.
“Joe was full of life, gifted in so many things,” said grieving father Benedict Elone.
Elone had a minor cough, fatigue and a headache for about two weeks before his death, but his family said it seemed like a summer cold.
And then, Elone watched his son collapse in front of their home on the evening of Aug. 4. He wasn’t breathing, and no one knew how sick he was. His father rushed to him in the yard.
“I hugged my son, I called him. He couldn’t even answer,” Benedict Elone said.
Joseph was taken to Vassar Brothers Medical Center, where he later died.
Dutchess County officials, citing initial testing, believe Elone may have been bitten by a tick infected with Powassan encephalitis. The virus is untreatable and can be transmitted by a tick bite in a matter of minutes.
A recent study by the journal Parasites & Vectors shows 6 percent of ticks in the Hudson Valley carry a variant of the virus, according to The Poughkeepsie Journal. Researchers say the number is low compared to Lyme disease carriers, but it’s also higher than expected.
“There are no diagnostic tests for the disease, and no treatments that are effective,” said Dr. David Roth, co-chair of the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance.
Joseph Elone, a talented student and musician, was getting ready for his senior year of high school, with plans to apply early decision to Brown University.
“He’s a kid who knew who he was,” said Benedict Elone. “He had all kinds of ambition. Teachers couldn’t stop speaking well of him.”
“I just miss my son,” he said in tears. “I just miss my son. I just miss my son.”