Common flu symptoms develop into rare brain disease for little girl

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Parents, please be aware of the symptoms of this deadly condition.

Rare neurological diseases don’t happen often, but when they do, the results can be devastating. What’s even more concerning is that sometimes, their symptoms are masked by symptoms of common illnesses, like the flu.

Recently, a two-year-old girl in Australia fell victim to one of many rare neurological disorders that is normally masked by a “common virus infection”. The little one is now battling for her life in the ICU.

Here’s what happened – and a short guide on the rare neurological disorder in question.

It Started with Normal Flu Symptoms…

Two-year-old Paige was a normal, bright playful toddler, until one fateful day in August 2018.

On 7 August, Paige developed mild flu symptoms and a slight fever. Her parents didn’t think much of it… until they noticed she was trembling. 

The little girl’s mummy, Jess, suspected something was terribly wrong and rushed her daughter to hospital. 

According to Jess, “While driving there she was in and out, like falling asleep. Then once we got to the hospital she vomited and it was very scary waiting for the nurses in emergency.”

After arriving at Moree Hospital, Paige underwent a series of transfers, eventually being admitted to Randwick Children’s Hospital ICU the next day.

Her diagnosis was a rare neurological disorder called Acute Necrotizing Encephalopathy (ANE).

The disease usually occurs after a virus infects the body. According to ANE International, “Typically, influenza is the leading trigger, followed by HSV6 and other viruses such as coxsackie and enteroviruses.”

Paige ANE 1 Common flu symptoms develop into rare brain disease for little girl

The flu virus can cause ANE. | Image source: stock photo

Thankfully, Paige seems to be recovering. According to Jess “Paige is progressing each day slowly but she is a warrior. With ANE, the prognosis is unsure with the seriousness of the brain injury but taking each day as it comes but she is a little fighter.”

Rare Neurological Disorders: Acute Necrotizing Encephalopathy

While this is a rare disease, it can still happen to a child easily, as showcased by what happened to little Paige.

Here, we’ve summarised information from ANE International for quick reference:

What is it? 

  • Although rare, ANE is a serious disease which influences the brain. The disease worsens very quickly, and usually normally happens after a viral infection. 
  • Most of the people affected by ANE are children, but sometimes teenagers and adults can get it too. 
  • ANE doesn’t discriminate – it affects people of all races. 

What are its symptoms?

  • The patient usually develops telling symptoms of a viral infection like fever, coughs, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat or a rash. 
  • The key distinguishing point is the fast-acting decline of the brain. This leads to seizures and changes in consciousness, which can range from drowsiness and confusion to coma.
home remedies for fever feat Common flu symptoms develop into rare brain disease for little girl

Fever is a common symptom of flu, which precedes ANE. | Image source: stock photo

How do doctors diagnose ANE?

  • Doctors will employ brain scans to check their diagnosis. Computed Tomography (CT) and Magenetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans can check for damage caused by the disease in certain of the parts of the brain.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid can also be collected to check for:
    • increased levels of protein
    • or the viruses infecting the child

Doctors can make a confirmed diagnosis on the following grounds:

  • if the patient was infected with a virus before ANE developed
  • neurological decline that occurs extremely quickly
  • brain scans showing damage specific to ANE 
  • CSF testing and ruling out other similar diseases

Treatment

For now, more research is needed to effectively treat ANE, so there are no exact guidelines have been set. Treatment usually includes:

  • providing the patient with intensive care (like tubes, drips and a breathing machine) so that their body can perform normal functions.
  • providing medication to tackle symptoms (e.g. antiepileptic drugs)
  • immunotherapies
  • dropping the body temperature intentionally

 

References: ANE International, GoFundMe

Also read:

Singapore dad shares how a rare disease left his children bedridden and tube-fed

Too much screen time damages the brains of young children

Travel frequently to Asia countries? Protect your child against Japanese Encephalitis – a leading viral encephalitis in Asia