Coroner: Upstate child's death should not create 'panic mode' - - Columbia, South Carolina

Coroner: Upstate child's death should not create 'panic mode'

(Source: WYFF) (Source: WYFF)

GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WYFF) - Upstate health officials held a news conference Thursday afternoon to give more detailed information about the death of a 4K student.

Deputy Coroner Barry Wright, Department of Health and Environmental Controls Director Melissa Overman and Medical Examiner and Forensic Pathologist James Fulcher gave an update on the preliminary findings of physical and microscopic exams.

Wright said that they have ruled out meningitis and myocarditis, and they are "working feverishly" to get answers as to what type of infection 5-year-old Jeremiah Cornelius Simmons may have had.

Jeremiah was a 4K student at Blythe Academy.

Wright and Fulcher said repeatedly that the school and school district took "every effort to ensure the safety of the students, parents and staff.   Wright said the staff's reaction was "swift," and a cleaning crew was brought in to decontaminate the school immediately after the district learned of Jeremiah's death. 

Fulcher said the school's response was "profound" and said they did a "phenomenal job," even saying that the level of disinfecting the school was in his estimation "overkill."

Fulcher said that though they still don't know what type of infection Jeremiah had, no bacterial illness has been found in preliminary tests, and they are looking at viral infections, though "that could change, it is not likely."

Fulcher said that they "can't look for every single virus on the planet," but they will try to determine what virus it might have been.

He said that Jeremiah had a pre-existing condition that his parents could not have known could become life-threatening when combined with other factors.  Fulcher said that Jeremiah's mother said he had snored loudly his entire life, and that could indicate an airway issue that could have come into play when combine with illness.  Fulcher said Jeremiah's brain showed indications of chronic hypoxia, meaning that he had chronically not been able to breath well enough.

Fulcher said the illness combined with the affected airway could have been a "perfect storm," leading to the boy's death from cardiac arrest.

He said Jeremiah's mother did "everything that a conscientious mother would do" and "she should be commended."

Fulcher said they are awaiting toxicology results and have two labs working on testing and microscopic exams, but he believes within "reasonable medical certainty that the children (at the school) are likely in the clear."

Wright said he doesn't want people to be "in a panic mode."  He said there are several agencies involved, and if any kind of warning or alarm needs to be sounded, they will do so.  He said they erred on the side of caution by saying initially the illness could be contagious, but they feel at this time, all the necessary precautions have been taken, and school worked "quickly and thoroughly" to make the school safe.

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