ESPN’s Edward Aschoff died on Tuesday (December 24) after a bout with pneumonia. It was his 34th birthday.
In the days following Aschoff’s tragic and untimely death, the talk about the dangers of pneumonia have been thrust into a larger conversation.
Aschoff’s fianceé, Katy Berteau, sent a series of tweets from Aschoff’s account on Thursday (December 26) to provide clarity around the college football reporter’s shocking death.
She tweeted that Aschoff was diagnosed with multifocal pneumonia, and after a failed round of antibiotics, he was treated for a presumed diagnosis of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare disease that affects the immune system. It’s unclear which diagnosis he received first.
Aschoff’s passed within three days of being moved to intensive care.
HLH affects the immune system by making certain white blood cells attack other blood cells and enlarging the spleen and liver. According to Johns Hopkins University, children typically inherit the disease, and in adults, HLH is caused by various conditions, including infections and cancer.
The symptoms of HLH include liver enlargement, swollen lymph nodes, skin rashes, jaundice, lung problems, including coughing and difficulty breathing, digestive problems, including stomach ache, vomiting, and diarrhea, and nervous system problems, including headache, trouble walking, visual disturbances and weakness.
According to CNN, pneumonia can be caused by a virus, bacteria or a fungus and occurs when the lungs’ air sacs fill with fluid or pus and it is contagious. Symptoms include fever and respiratory problems.
It can affect one or both lungs, and multifocal means the pneumonia is in multiple places in the lung. Bilateral pneumonia means the infection is in both lungs, USA Today reports.
While thousands die of pneumonia each year, healthy people usually fight it off, especially when treated with antibiotics and antiviral medications. Those most at risk are the young, elderly and immune-compromised.
NBC News spoke to Humberto Choi, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, about the seriousness of pneumonia.
“This is an example that anyone can get pneumonia, and it can be severe, even when that person is in good health,” said Choi. “Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs. These air sacs, called alveoli, can fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe. The disease can be fatal, especially this time of year, when respiratory infections are more common. This is why we talk so much about the flu shot.”
Of course not every case of pneumonia is life-threatening, but it is wise to seek medical help to begin the proper course of treatment as soon as possible.
“It must be remembered, however, that pneumonia is serious and can be life-threatening in certain situations,” said Dr. Natalie Azar, an assistant professor of medicine and rheumatology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and an NBC News medical contributor. “In certain cases, the infection just overwhelms someone’s immune system.”
Choi also told NBC News that HLH could have been something Aschoff had before and then developed pneumonia as a consequence, or pneumonia could have triggered HLH.
Berteau finished her series of tweets thanking everyone for their outpouring of love and support during a very difficult time and provided updates on a memorial service.