Boy, 8, battling brain infection caused by the flu

Witten Ramirez is battling a brain infection that was caused by the flu.

CARROLLTON, Texas (WFLA/NBC News) — An 8-year-old Texas boy is battling a brain infection that doctors say was caused by the flu.

Witten Ramirez is an 8-year old boy with autism who is typically full of life, according to his mom Desiree Buckingham-Ramirez.

“He’s a rock star. Everyone at school knows him. Everyone calls for him,” she said.

He came down with the flu and so did the rest of his family. However, Witten’s mom says his symptoms were much worse than everyone else’s.

“He’s sleeping way too much, he stumbled a little bit, but I kind of chalked that up to hey, he’s not feeling well,” she said.

Desiree rushed Witten to the emergency room of a local hospital because she was worried that he might be having a reaction to medication.

They arrived at the hospital and Witten underwent testing that revealed a different problem. The flu had caused an infection inside the part of Witten’s brain that controls movement.

“He can’t walk, he can’t sit on his own, he can’t stand, he can’t talk. It’s taken everything,” said Desiree who had never thought that the flu could cause an infection in her son’s brain.

“No, I had no idea.  I thought the elderly, I thought little babies, that’s who it affects most. A healthy 8-year old boy, nope, had no idea,” said Desiree.

Doctor Benjamin Greenberg is a neurologist. He said the complication is extremely rare.

“The vast majority of adults and children who get a neurologic complication, we don’t understand the reason why,” said Greenberg.

He also said there are no known risk factors for this type of complication.

“You can have otherwise seemingly healthy individuals whose bodies handle flu in such a way to lead to a neurologic complication which is why we spend so much time focusing on prevention.”

Greenberg said the best prevention is the flu vaccine.

Desiree says Witten didn’t get a flu shot this season like he has in the past. “I had no idea the flu was going to be this bad this year,” she said. Next year, she will make sure he gets his flu shot.

Doctors say autism does not contribute to the infection and neither did Witten’s medicine.

He is expected to recover with rehab which is the case with most patients.

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