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Bassuk Explains Flu-related Blindness to Media

Jan 13 2020

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20/20 Blog

Iowa City, IA — Alexander Bassuk M.D., Ph.D., division director of Pediatric Neurology at the University of Iowa's Stead Family Children’s Hospital and longtime Mahajan Lab collaborator, appeared on Good Morning America and other national media outlets to explain how a four-year-old Iowa girl lost her vision after getting the flu.

Without a prior flu vaccination, the child developed acute necrotizing encephalopathy right before Christmas. This is a rare complication of influenza B infection. Inflammation in the brain where vision is processed caused the child to go blind. 

Bassuk noted, "We think that what has happened in this case is there was an infection with influenza and then the body sort of overcompensates when it is fighting the infection. The body’s immune system can become overactivated while fighting a virus and begin fighting itself.”

Mahajan added, “Although some viruses can infect the eye, in this case the main injury is in the brain. We are hopeful that as the brain slowly recovers, the young girl may regain some of her vision.” 

The mother of the child encouraged all parents to get a flu shot for their children to ward off influenza and reduce the symptoms if a more dangerous illness develops.

See the Good Morning America video.