Lemierre’s Syndrome – a deadly virus you should know about that imitates the flu. It typically strikes children between the ages of 4 and 22, although it does strike those younger and older. It nearly killed my granddaughter.
I haven’t posted in a while. Why? Because my 14-year-old granddaughter, Micki, has been in the hospital for what we thought was the flu. She had typical flu symptoms: fever, achyness, nausea, and vomiting. But after 4 days it wasn’t getting better. My daughter took her to her pediatrician, who stated it could be mono or strep throat. A culture was done for strep – it was negative – and the mono test couldn’t be done for 3 more days (mono needs 7 days to incubate, apparently). She was told to continue keeping her hydrated, and gave her a prescription for the nausea and antibiotics.
The next day (Saturday), Micki got worse. Said she felt like an elephant was sitting on her chest, and her neck hurt. I told my daughter to take her straight to the ER as it sounded as though she may be developing pneumonia, which she did. Micki ended up in ICU at Children’s Hospital within 30 minutes of arriving. Her blood pressure had dropped drastically (70/29), and she couldn’t breathe. They put in a central line in her neck to help administer the total of 16 different IV’s she needed. The doctors ordered an ultrasound to check the placement of the line, which runs near the heart. They were completely surprised to find a clot on her jugular vein. Not good. She was diagnosed with Lemierre’s Syndrome.
Lemierre’s Syndrome is a virus that has all the symptoms of a regular flu. But it is deadly – seriously deadly. It is a bacteria that we ALL have in our bodies. It only chooses to show itself on a select few. When a sore throat develops, this bacteria gathers in the throat and tonsils and can look like strep. The bacteria causes a blood clot to form in the jugular vein. A piece of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, causing pneumonia and can affect all the other organs, too. Most doctors don’t know about Lemierre’s, because it is quite rare. Micki’s attending doctor stated they only see about 5-10 cases per year (and this is in a renown children’s hospital), and only 1000 cases nationwide. Many children who die from flu-like symptoms have Lemierre’s, but it is never diagnosed. We were lucky to have been in Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, a teaching hospital where the interns are pushed to look “outside the box”. I truly believe that if she hadn’t been there, it would never have been diagnosed, and she would not be with us today. And trust me, there are now at least 2 dozen new doctors who will now never forget this disease.
Micki was in the hospital for 3 weeks, 5 days of that in ICU dancing a very fine line with her life in the balance. She had chest tubes in both lungs. Ran fevers between 101-105 for three straight weeks. Was on full oxygen for days. She is home now. She will be on IV antibiotics for 6 weeks. She is getting shots twice a day to help shrink the clot in her neck. These shots may go on for months – maybe years.
I thank God every day that things turned out the way they did. She is definitely one of the lucky ones. I want to warn you all, as flu season comes near, of this disease, and the warning signs:
- Severe sore throat
- Body aches and weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Strep throat symptoms
- and most important – a sore neck
PLEASE educate yourself about this disease. It is not my intention to scare you, but make you aware of it’s existence. It’s rare, so there’s not much out there on it, but this is a great site: Lemierre’s Awareness Website
If your child gets a sore neck while they’ve got the flu, TAKE THEM DIRECTLY TO THE ER! You may just be saving their life.