Teenager's death not linked to disease

PUBLISHED: 18:12 28 January 2002 | UPDATED: 15:24 03 March 2010

DOCTORS today ruled out the possibility that an illness which struck a whole Suffolk family and claimed the life of their teenage daughter, was the dreaded winter vomiting disease.

DOCTORS today ruled out the possibility that an illness which struck a whole Suffolk family and claimed the life of their teenage daughter, was the dreaded winter vomiting disease.

Although Suffolk Health and Ipswich Hospital said last week that there had been no cases of the disease flu in Suffolk yet, it has swept through tens of thousands of schools, offices and factories in other parts of Britain.

A spokesman for Suffolk Health said today: "There are handfuls of cases of winter vomiting disease at the moment, but that is normal for the time of year. It is no worse than any other year."

But he said Emma Barnett of Ixworth, near Bury St Edmunds who died last Tuesday, had not suffered the same vomiting symptoms and had instead died of a respiratory illness like flu or pneumonia.

Jerry Barnett has been left watching helplessly as his wife and two of his daughters all contracted the same mystery illness which hours before killed his 14-year-old daughter Emma.

His wife Sylvia, and daughters Hanna, ten, and Dana, eight, are all being treated at West Suffolk Hospital where Mr Barnett has been keeping a vigil since his ordeal began last week.

He said: "I'm just about coping. The whole thing is surreal.

"Friends have been tremendous and the staff at the hospital have been brilliant but it is devastating. I haven't had time to think of anything else," said the 45-year-old who works at the Suffolk Golf and Country Club, near Bury.

The first symptoms appeared in Emma, a student at Thurston Community College, a week ago when she complained of a sore throat and temperature.

The following day her temperature had soared to 103 and she was given penicillin and paracetamol.

On Tuesday she collapsed unconscious at home and was rushed to the Bury hospital but died that day.

Within hours, American-born Sylvia was rushed to the hospital with the same symptoms. On Wednesday , Dana was admitted to the hospital with the same thing and on Saturday night Hanna was also admitted with the bug.

All three have responded well to treatment, their conditions slowly improving, and Mr Barnett said he hoped his daughters would be allowed home today . He hopes Sylvia will be allowed home in the next few days.

An initial post mortem examination on Emma failed to pinpoint the exact cause but revealed it was a respiratory illness like influenza or pneumonia.

Mr Barnett, who has remained free of the disease, said: "From all the indications it seems to be a very rare form of flu.

"They have carried out tests on me but I haven't caught it – I have no idea why."

Mr Barnett said friends were being very supportive but his wife's family in America were finding it particularly difficult to cope being so far away.

"My wife's mother is in Alabama and her sister is in Texas. I speak to them on the phone but it is devastating for them. It is particularly distressing because they are thousands of miles away," he said.

A spokesman for Suffolk Health said: "It's extremely rare for a 14-year-old to die due to a respiratory problem and our sympathies are with Emma Barnett's family at this very difficult time.

"Suffolk Health is co-ordinating efforts to establish an exact cause of her death and tests are still ongoing, but there is no reason to believe that this is anything other than an isolated tragic occurrence."

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