A four-year-old boy with a genetic disorder has been killed by the flu and now his older brother is in the hospital with the same virus.
Jonah Rieben died on January 6 just hours after first showing symptoms, making him the first child to die from the flu in Ohio this season.
The boy who loved to play with his 16 adoptive siblings was born with Noonan syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes heart defects, developmental delays and short stature, and doctors are still investigating if his condition contributed to his death.
Now his parents who have spent years caring for children with rare, debilitating disorders are reeling as they fight such a common virus as the flu.
Jonah’s older brother, who also suffers from a disorder, is in the hospital with a severe case of the flu that has been sweeping the US this season, killing at least 20 children and 85 adults.
Jonah Rieben, four, became the first child to die from the flu in Ohio on January 6
His parents Valerie and Richard Rieben had less than a year with Jonah after adopting him from Bulgaria in February 2017
Jonah was the first of two children to die in Ohio from the flu. The second reported child death was of a one-year-old boy from Lucas County.
He died within hours of being brought to Dayton Children’s Hospital after showing flu-like symptoms.
Jonah had spent less than a year with his new family after being born in Bulgaria and adopted by Valerie and Richard Rieben in February 2017.
He was the youngest of 17 children, 14 of who were adopted from Bulgaria, Ukraine and Uzbekistan and suffer from disorders.
The boy who loved music, car rides and chocolate smoothies was described in his obituary as ‘the happiest when he was in the middle of the chaos and craziness of his large and loving family.’
Now his older brother Nikolai, who was also adopted and has a medical disorder, is in the hospital with flu-like symptoms.
‘At this point he is stable and doing very well,’ Valerie told Dayton Daily News.
Doctors are still investigating if Jonah’s genetic disease contributed to his death.
He suffered from Noonan disorder, a genetic condition that causes heart defects and developmental delays.
A complete report by the medical examiner will take about six months to determine the exact cause of his death.
Typically someone would show signs of the flu before it gets to the point of death, leading experts to believe that Jonah’s condition could have made an impact.
His father Richard said: ‘You know, you belong to the “special needs parents” group. You belong to the “big family” group. The group I didn’t think I was ready to join was the group that has lost a young child.’
Jonah was the youngest of 17 children (pictured together at Christmas 2017), 14 of whom were adopted and have medical conditions
He showed flu-like symptoms just hours before being rushed to Dayton Children’s Hospital where he died. He had a genetic disorder that is thought to have contributed to his death
Jonah’s death comes as this season’s massive flu outbreak is devastating the US.
This season the flu has killed at least 20 children and more than 85 adults in the US, according to the CDC.
The rate of hospitalizations almost doubled in a week, leaving hospitals overcrowded, understaffed and turning some patients away.
Experts warn that infants and elderly people are the most vulnerable. The flu is now widespread in more than 46 states as the outbreak reaches his peak, making it one of the worse flu seasons in years.
It is especially dangerous because while most people suffering from the flu experience fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue, not all those infected show symptoms.
Dr Angela Tonozzi director of Infectious Disease and Prevention at Aurora Health Care told Daily Mail Online that showing no symptoms is called the flu subclinical disease.
She said: ‘Subclinical disease is known as carrier status because you have the virus and are able to share those germs without symptoms.
‘You can have the flu but your body fights it and you have no knowledge that you had the disease.’
This is why healthcare professionals warn to wash your hands and avoid close contact with anyone, whether they show symptoms or not.
VICTIMS OF THE FLU THIS SEASON
Jonah Smith, 17, died December 29 when his heart stopped beating in the backseat of his sister’s car.
His family said he showed no flu-like symptoms except he had complained of a backache, but continued to go to work at a fast-food restaurant and see friends.
After his death, doctors confirmed that the teen from Arizona had the flu and pneumonia and believe he may have suffered from an underlying medical condition, though he was never known to have one.
Kyler Baughmen, 21, became sick on December 23rd with a mild cough and runny nose.
He celebrated Christmas and went back to work December 26, but the following day was rushed to the hospital.
He died on December 28 from kidney failure due to septic shock caused by the flu.
Jenny Ching, 51, went to the hospital in Massachusetts with flu-like symptoms.
After being diagnosed with the flu she developed an infection and pneumonia.
The mother-of-two died on January 6, just a week after being diagnosed.