4-Year-Old Girl Went Blind & Had "Significant Brain Damage" After Getting The Flu

by Morgan Brinlee

In Iowa, a 4-year-old girl has gone blind after getting the flu, leaving both doctors and her parents anxiously waiting to see if she will regain her sight. The child's mother has told news outlets her daughter hadn't been vaccinated against the flu this year as she'd hoped a vaccine the girl had received last March would continue to protect her this season. Unfortunately, it didn't.

Jade DeLucia's parents told Good Morning America they'd rushed the 4-year-old to the hospital on Christmas Eve after finding her feverish and unresponsive in bed. At the hospital, Jade suffered a seizure, according to CNN, which prompted medical staff to have her airlifted to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City for further treatment.

On Christmas Day, as TODAY reported, while Jade was still unconscious and unresponsive, doctors diagnosed her with encephalopathy, a rare complication of the influenza virus that causes swelling of the brain. "They said she had significant brain damage," Amanda Phillips, Jade's mother, told CNN. "They said our child might not ever wake up, and if she did, she might not ever be the same."

While Jade regained consciousness on Jan. 1, doctors soon noticed that something was wrong with her vision. A pediatric neurologist who treated Jade told CNN that the area of her brain responsible for perceiving sight appears to have been affected by her illness and doctors won't know if she'll regain her vision for another three to six months. "Whatever recovery she has at six months, that's likely all she's going to get," Dr. Theresa Czech told the news outlet.

Phillips told NBC News that she'd had her daughter vaccinated against the flu virus in March 2019 and had hoped that vaccine would be "good" for an entire year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, recommends that everyone 6 months or older obtain a flu vaccine every season with only rare exceptions.

"A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons," the CDC notes. "First, a person's immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses that research suggests may be most common during the upcoming flu season."

The CDC recently estimated that this flu season had already seen at least 9.7 million cases, resulting in 87,000 hospitalizations and 4,800 deaths. Still, the agency has said it's not too late to get a flu shot this season.

Neighbors of Phillips have since started a GoFundMe on behalf of the family to help cover Jade's medical bills and it has since raised over $40,000. On Monday, Phillips shared an update on Facebook that Jade is back home and "still cannot see but she’s perfect in every way."

Jade's grandmother, Courtney Frey, also shared a message to parents while speaking with CBS 17, reminding them to trust their gut. "Take them to the doctor," Frey told the news outlet. "... After 24, 48 hours, take them. Get them tested, demand for an influenza test."