6-year-old girl dies from rare flu complication

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (WKYC) - A 6-year-old girl battling the flu has died from a rare complication.

Eva Marie Harris passed away shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday evening, her mother confirmed on Facebook.

The family issued the following statement Friday morning:

"We are truly humbled by the outpouring of love, prayers and support from the community for our beloved daughter, Eva Harris.

We are deeply saddened to share that Eva has passed away. As her family, we wish to request privacy as we remember and celebrate her amazing life.

On Feb. 7, Eva was admitted to Cleveland Clinic Children’s with a fever of 105 degrees. After undergoing several tests, we learned that she had a viral infection and her body's immune response had also caused damage to her brain. As a result, Eva developed a severe form of a neurological disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), or acute necrotizing encephalopathy of childhood (ANEC). There are a variety of viruses that can trigger ADEM/ANEC; however, the disease does not appear to be caused by any single infectious agent and Eva's case is extremely rare.

While this is a very difficult time for our family, we are extremely grateful for Eva’s medical team, especially her nurses. We are thankful for all that was done for our daughter during her relatively brief time in the hospital.”

The community had joined together to rally for Eva during her time in the hospital with porch light after porch light illuminated to show support.

It started as a call to action post on the “Community of Rocky River” Facebook page that asked supporters to keep their lights on until Eva is home.

It started as a case of influenza B then led to a very rare condition, known as ADEM, or acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Maz Wiznitzer explained ADEM.

"ADEM is basically the body attacking itself. You get an infection, it’s ussually a virus that provokes a response from the body that causes it to attack the brain. It’s a rare condition. We see a few cases a year. It’s also a treatable condition," says Dr. Wiznitzer.

On Wednesday, Eva’s mother posted in the Rocky River Facebook group that Eva had been placed on life support, getting a cardiac drip and on a ventilator.

The response from total strangers pulling for Eva and her parents was impressive.

An online caring fund page was created with many pledging to bring the family meals, among other things.

It’s a family who most of those pledging support had never even met.

Many of the are parents also wondering about their own kids.

Dr. Wiznitzer says that ADEM is not contagious.

Most ADEM patients have a viral or bacterial illness 2-3 weeks before developing ADEM.

"The children present with change in mental status, seizures, fever. They may have a weakness on one side or unsteady when they walk," says Wiznitzer.

But he offers some peace of mind for parents worried ADEM can be CAUSED by the flu vaccine.

“The present vaccinations that we give do not have an association with ADEM. In fact, we know the diseases those vaccines protect you against, THOSE are the ones that can cause this bad inflammation of the brain, swelling and inflammation of the brain. The vaccine would actually protect you against that."

(© 2017 WKYC)


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