Coroner: Teen Died from Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis Complications

According to a story from The Island Packet, fourteen year old Presley Miller, of Hilton Head Island, SC, was recently confirmed to have died from complications related to the rare disease acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), according to a report from David Ott, the Chief Deputy Coroner for Beaufort County. Presley’s death occurred on May 21st of this year. Ott is unsure what caused the illness to emerge.

About Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis

Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a rare autoimmune illness which is characterized by rapid and abrupt inflammation impacting the spinal cord and brain. The attack results in damage to the myelin sheath and white matter. In most cases, the illness is triggered by infection with a virus, though much more rarely it can be caused by certain vaccinations. Symptoms are similar to multiple sclerosis (MS) and include seizures, confusion, vision problems, drowsiness, headache, nausea, coma, and vomiting; however, it is distinct from MS in the fever is often present and the disease is more common in adolescents. Relapse is uncommon once symptoms resolve. Treatment typically involves fast acting corticosteroids or other medications to suppress the immune system; fatality rate is estimated at five percent to ten percent. Most patients recover but may have some degree of permanent disability. To learn more about acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, click here.

Unclear Origins

The teen was stung by a stingray a couple of weeks before her death on May 4th, and while the coroner is doubtful that it played a role, he said that it still wasn’t possible to rule it out entirely. Since the illness of often triggered by an infection, there is a small possibility that the wound from the injury could have gotten infected.

Presley was attending the eighth grade at Hilton Head Island Middle School. Many of her classmates posted online tributes following her sudden and tragic passing. 


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