Hospital (illustration)
Hospital (illustration)Flash 90

A 4-year-old girl was hospitalized in Sheba Medical Center last week in moderate condition after she became ill with pneumococcal disease.

Pneumococcal disease can cause encephalitis, pneumonia, and ear infections this case, caused deafness, motor problems, and other irreversible damage.

A quick investigation showed that the young patient had not been properly vaccinated, and had become infected while visiting her family in Azerbaijan. She was originally treated in a local hospital, and was transferred to Sheba after her condition stabilized.

Though she is currently receiving life-saving antibiotics, her hearing will never return and she will continue to suffer from the other permanent damage caused by the infection, requiring extensive rehabilitation.

"Upon her arrival, the girl displayed classic symptoms of encephalitis," Dr. Gila Barkai, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Sheba told Israel Hayom. "Upon checking for fluids in her spine, we were able to diagnose the illness as pneumococcal disease. The patient suffers a significant loss of hearing in one ear."

"She is also suffering from a drastic decline in cognitive function, and she has severe neurological damage. It's hard to know how much we'll be able to rehabilitate her."

Dr. Barkai also said that the child had received the two-month vaccination on schedule, but had not received the others.

"The parents were afraid to continue vaccinating their daughter after she developed a high fever in response to the first vaccine," she said, a not uncommon reaction whch soon passes.

"As a doctor, I'm very frustrated. If someone had explained to the parents that the vaccine is important, and they had continued vaccinating her on schedule, we would be in a different situation right now.

"I hope people hear the story of this little girl and others like her, and that it influences their decisions."

Israeli began immunizing children against pneumococcal disease in 2010. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots, at 2 months, four months, and one year. It significantly reduces the use of antibiotics, as well as the number of children hospitalized for ear infections and pneumonia.