Jade DeLucia, a 4-year-old in Iowa, was not vaccinated this flu season and wound up in intensive care.
On January 1, her parents discovered that the flu had affected the part of Jade's brain that perceived sight.
This year's flu season might be the deadliest one yet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,900 people, including 27 children, have already died after getting the flu.
The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get new vaccinations every flu season.
It's flu season and the viral infection has already cost one 4-year-old girl her sight. Jade DeLucia did not receive a flu shot this season and spent two weeks fighting for her life in the intensive care unit at University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, according to CNN.
A few days before Christmas, Jade's parents noticed she seemed subdued, CNN reported. By December 23, Jade had to be flown in an emergency helicopter to a children's hospital. Her father said he didn't think he'd ever see her again.
On Christmas Day, Jade's parents found out the culprit was the flu, and that it had caused Jade to develop acute necrotizing encephalopathy, or ANE, a disease that affects brain function and is so rare there are few clinical studies on how children handle it.
After seven days of lying in a hospital bed, Jade opened her eyes. But when her mother handed her a white unicorn, her favorite stuffed animal, Jade didn't look at it. Doctors examined her and determined that her eyes were fine. It was her brain that was the problem.
"It affected the part of her brain that perceives sight, and we don't know if she's going to get her vision back," Dr. Theresa Czech, 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."
Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot every year
The flu changes every year, and so does the vaccine. This year's strain of the flu is is an influenza B virus, which is more dangerous for children and young adults, the Washington Post reported. Most years the flu is an A strain of influenza, with a B strain showing up towards the end.
This year's flu season is set to be one of the worst in history. CBS reported 10 million people have already gotten the flu and pediatric deaths are double what they were last year. So far, 2,900 people, including 27 children, have died.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months and older get new vaccinations every flu season. Even though the vaccine is only about 40 to 60% effective at preventing the flu, it can prevent serious illness in children like Jade.
If left untreated, the flu can cause problems in the nervous system in rare cases. Breathing problems, and a lack of oxygen going to the brain, can cause some serious brain problems, especially if the situation persists for long enough, according to WebMD.
Depending on which part of the brain is affected, the flu can cause vision impairments or cognitive or developmental issues. Other complications from the flu include pneumonia, sinus problems and ear infections.
Aside from vaccinations, the CDC says people can reduce their risk of spreading the flu by washing their hands regularly with soap and water, avoiding contact with sick people, and covering noses and mouths while sneezing or coughing.
Jade's parents are now speaking out about the importance of vaccination and started a GoFundMe for their medical bills. At the time of publication, $35,000 out of $50,000 had been donated.
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