A 4-year-old Iowa girl is blind after a bout of the flu, and a 13-year-old Idaho girl has died from complications of the disease.
Jade DeLucia did not receive a flu shot this season and fell ill in December a few days before Christmas, CNN reports.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, her father, Stephen DeLucia, went to check on Jade but she was unresponsive and her body was burning hot, CNN reports.
Jade’s mother, Amanda Phillips, told CNN, “I yelled at him — I was like, ‘We have to go. We have to go to the emergency room. This isn’t right. Something’s not right with her.”
CNN reports, DeLucia spent nearly two weeks in the intensive care unit at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital after being airlifted there from Covenant Medical Center about 80 miles away.
According to CNN, she had suffered a seizure at Covenant and doctors said there was no time to transfer her via ambulance.
MRI results showed that Jade “had significant brain damage. They said our child might not ever wake up, and if she did, she might not ever be the same,” Phillips told CNN.
On December 31, Jade was diagnosed with acute necrotizing encephalopathy (ANE), a rare form of encephalopathy usually caused by a viral infection, CNN reports.
Doctors prescribed steroids to calm the swelling in Jade’s brain and by the next day, the little girl woke up, CNN reports.
While her health continued to improve over the next few days, according to CNN, her brain had suffered trauma and impacted her vision.
“It affected the part of her brain that perceives sight, and we don’t know if she’s going to get her vision back,” Jade’s neurologist told CNN. “In about three to six months from now we’ll know. Whatever recovery she has at six months, that’s likely all she’s going to get.”
CNN reports that Jade may also have cognitive or developmental problems, such as learning disabilities, according to her neurologist.
Phillips told CNN that she advises parents to get their children vaccinated.
“If I can stop one child from getting sick, that’s what I want to do,” she told CNN. “It’s terrible to see your child suffer like this.”
According to public health officials in Idaho, at least two children have died from influenza-related causes, the Idaho Statesman reports.
People reports that one of the children who died in Idaho was 13-year-old Liliana “Lily” Clark.
According to a GoFundMe page for Clark, on Dec. 27 Clark’s parents took her to urgent care and were sent home with Tamiflu meds. Three days later, the teen was rushed back to urgent care after her symptoms became increasingly worse, People reports.
The teen was unable to breathe and doctors at urgent care in Idaho Falls measured her oxygen levels at only 60% before calling an ambulance to transfer her to the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. There, doctors determined Clark had pneumonia and MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) that has spread throughout her whole body, People reports.
Clark’s brain had swelled resulting in bleeding, according to the GoFundMe page, People reports.
She died on Jan. 5 days before her 14th birthday, People reports.
“Our hearts go out to the families of these children,” Dr. Christine Hahn, medical director for the department’s Division of Public Health, said in a news release, the Idaho Statesman reports. “This flu strain appears to be impacting some children in Idaho heavily, and we want to make sure that Idahoans are taking precautions to stay safe this flu season.”
Hahn was referring to the influenza B strain, the Idaho Statesman reports.
Experts told NBC News that this flu season has distinguished itself from previous years with an early rise in a strain of the virus called B/Victoria.
“Flu B has a predilection for striking children,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases told NBC News. “We’re seeing lots of children and more young adults at the present time. That’s a reflection of the dominance of flu B.”
NBC News reports that the CDC said influenza A strain H1N1, a strain of the flu which also typically hits young people hard, is starting to circulate.
According to the CDC, a 2017 study showed the flu vaccine significantly reduced a child’s risk of dying from the flu. Additionally, a 2014 study showed that the vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admission by 74%.
“Run, do not walk, do not linger,” Schaffner told NBC News. “If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, get it this afternoon.”
(Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)