Autopsy shows common stomach virus responsible for death of child at day care

Child was found unresponsive at Happy Acres Ranch day care last year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An autopsy revealed why a child died after being found unresponsive at Happy Acres Ranch day care a day after Thanksgiving last year.

According to an autopsy report obtained by News4Jax, the child died of natural causes. The 13-month-old boy had a common illness that turned deadly: acute gastroenteritis.

Police cars and concerned parents swarmed Happy Acres Ranch day care after a baby boy was found unresponsive.

At the time, police said staff told them the child had been put down for a nap at about 12:30 p.m. When an employee of the day care went to check on the boy at about 2:30 p.m., the child was unresponsive.

The autopsy report shows the 1-year-old boy died from acute and chronic gastroenteritis, with small bowel hemorrhage and dehydration.

Doctor Mark McCollum, a pediatric surgeon at Orange Park Medical Center, said parents need to know about the illness.

“It is one of the most frequent things we see,” McCollum said.

According to Dr. McCollum, the stomach illness starts in the acute phase, lasting for six to 24 hours and resolves itself in about 3-5 days.

But the stomach sickness can become deadly if it extends past a week.

The red flags include persistent symptoms of fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

“Now it’s moved to a stage where there is the persistence of fluid loss and the child is exhibiting more significant symptoms and really showing signs they can’t keep up with the illness and the illness is really winning the battle,” said McCullom.

And if the illness is winning, the child loses the ability to communicate they are sick through crying or movement and the baby could die, a painful reality that has already happened for one local child.

“They kind of go to sleep in the illness instead of continuing to fight the illness and that transition is important because now the virus is winning the battle and the child does need urgent supportive care and at that point the child is not crying out for help," said McCollum.

Parents are encouraged to contact a pediatrician whenever their child is sick and don’t assume the child is okay because they are quiet. News4Jax has reached out to Happy Acres Ranch day care and the child’s parents and they did not respond.

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