While her symptoms are now limited to the occasional memory lapse, Hardenbrook was facing the real possibility of death when her doctors first discovered what was wrong with her. Doctors told her she had contracted EEE after being bitten by an infected mosquito during a concert at the Allegan County Fair in 2014.
Health officials said this week on Monday that the first case of EEE since 2016 had been confirmed in an Allegan County resident. The Allegan County Health Department said the disease was confirmed after the person was hospitalized in late August with a neurological illness.
Hardenbrook's diagnosis came after she checked into the hospital with flu-like symptoms. Initially, doctors thought she was just dehydrated. When her condition drastically deteriorated, they were able to determine it was EEE. She was quickly having difficulty walking and getting around.
After months of physical therapy, Hardenbrook was able to walk again.
Speaking to FOX 17 Tuesday, she said, "most cases there is very significant brain damage, memory loss, paralysis. So, I feel very lucky. Like I said, I agree with the doctors. I'm glad it happened.. Well, not that it happened, but, that I was healthy and young and I was able to fight with everything I have to defeat it."
The Allegan County Health Department urges the public to take precautions like using insect repellent containing DEET and avoiding being outside during the dawn and dusk hours when mosquito activity is highest.