April 30, 2009

Rare Syndrome Claims Life of SCR-I Senior Just Weeks Prior to Graduation

Just weeks before he was scheduled to walk across the stage and receive his diploma along with his classmates, one Scotland County R-I High School senior had his life tragically cut short by an extremely rare disease.

Kegan Hunt, 18, passed away Thursday, April 23rd at University Hospital in Columbia. The cause of death was determined to be Lemierre’s syndrome, also known as postanginal sepsis.

“The Forgotten Disease” as it is called was reported only in roughly 160 cases over the past century, with medical studies noting the occurrence rate is less than one in a million people. However according to the Justin E. Rodgers Foundation for Lemierre’s Awareness, it is becoming far more common.

Family, friends and classmates struggled to come to terms with the news that a healthy 18-year-old could succumb to what started as a sore throat.

Scotland County R-I held a school-wide assembly Friday morning to address the student body regarding the passing of one of their own.

High School Counselor Brent Bondurant indicated the district had brought in additional counseling services on Thursday and Friday, as well as the first part of the following week. Special counseling visits are also being planned for Hunt’s senior classmates.

Family members also had to deal with concerns regarding the diagnosis. Initial considerations included meningitis or other possibly contagious conditions before the cause of death was finally determined to be Lemierre’s syndrome, which is not deemed a contagious situation according to the Rodgers Foundation.

The syndrome most frequently develops in relation to a sore throat, when a puss-filled abscess develops, often near the tonsils. In Lemierre’s syndrome, bacteria form in the sore, traveling from the abscess to the neighboring jugular vein. Once in the blood stream, an infected blood clot called a thrombosis can form, further spreading the disease throughout the blood stream, with the threat of portions of the clot breaking off and traveling to the heart and lungs.

The spread of the infection can result in sepsis, when the entire body is in an inflammatory state due to the extreme presence of infection.

Due to its rarity, the disease is difficult to diagnose. One reason for more recent occurrences of the syndrome can be attributed to the medical field’s transition in treating most common throat ailments, which generally are caused by viruses. Antibiotics, the prime defense against Lemierre’s disease, are no longer commonly prescribed for viral infections.

The disease generally occurs in healthy adolescents and young adults.

Symptoms start with a sore throat, fever and lethargy, eventually expanding to swelling, pain and tenderness in the neck.

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