Death Of 3-Year-Old With Influenza Strikes Stark Warning To Parents

October 10, 2017
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Vanika Idnani was just three days shy of her fourth birthday when she passed away in her parent’s bed.

Her Dad Neeraj and mother Anjali had very, little warning. Their vibrant daughter was in high spirits two days earlier when her father surprised her at pick-up time, outside her daycare in Ryde.

“She saw me and came running to me in excitement,” Mr Idnani said. “She was so happy and alert and full of life. I remember she reminded me, ‘Papa we forgot my water bottle.’ “

“Her not being here three days later … it’s something we could never have imagined,” the heartbroken Dad said.

Vanika died with influenza on Saturday, July 29, just as flu season was building to a climax in the Southern hemisphere.

Three children have died of influenza-related illnesses in NSW in 2017 thus far. NSW Health recorded 288 flu deaths overall from the period January 1 to September 15.

An eight-year-old Victorian girl also died of flu on September 15 while a Victorian mother remains in an induced coma six weeks after she gave birth to a boy on August 28. A young father also died from flu on his first Father’s Day on September 3.

In Victoria, 121 influenza-related deaths have been recorded.

On Friday, July 28, Vanika had a fever, was feeling lethargic and complained of joint pain and a tummy ache, her father said. She vomited twice during that day, but rallied briefly.

She was singing in the shopping centre when we were buying gifts and decorations for her birthday,” Mr Idnani said.

Her Mom took her to their Doctor, who took a throat swab. Idnani said the Doctor also checked her breathing and other vital signs, and mentioned she had the symptoms of an ear infection.

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“We thought she would be fine,” Mr Idnani said. “We thought ‘it’s just a normal virus.’

On the Saturday night, Vanika fell asleep with her father right by her side.

“I woke up in the night and I suddenly realised she was not moving or breathing … I tried to move her but her hands were like stone,” Mr Idnani said.

Vanika was rushed by ambulance to Hospital, but she did not survive.

It took another day before her parents discovered she had influenza when they received the pathology results from her throat swab.

“We have so many questions … we don’t know the complete picture,” Mr Idnani said

Her case has been referred to the coroner.

Vanika’s parents hope that her case will serve as a warning to other families which even healthy children can be severely affected by the flu.

“We want there to be some awareness that these things could happen to anyone,” he said.

Infectious diseases expert at the University of Sydney Robert Booy said that about half of the children who died from influenza had no known underlying condition.

The majority of flu deaths in children are before they get to school age,” said Professor Booy, Head of Clinical Research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance in Australia.

Professor Booy says that often these children died of a secondary infection, including meningococcal disease. Flu and other viral respiratory infections are known risk factors for meningococcal disease,.

Almost everyone will carry harmless meningococcus bacteria in their nose and throat at some stage in their lives. The flu can damage the lining of their respiratory tract, which allows the bacteria to “invade” their bloodstream, becoming a harmful infection.

Professor Booy said that antibiotics may mute the presence of meningococcal and skew the test results so it didn’t get picked up.

“This year we have had an increased rate of meningococcal disease,” Professor Booy said. “We should be asking, could this be because we have had so much flu?”

However, flu and meningococcal deaths among children were still rare, Professor Booy said.

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Professor Booy said that rapid breathing and becoming pale or blue should also prompt families to seek medical attention immediately.

Flu symptoms in children include the following symptoms: cough, fatigue, muscle aches and high fever that can last two to three weeks. Exhaustion is an early prominent feature of flu and children may also have nausea and diarrhoea.


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