Mum’s Warning After Newborn Dies of Enterovirus Contracted During Pregnancy

Two months ago, NSW mum Denise Brajkovic and her partner, Mat, welcomed a healthy little boy. 

Born at 39 weeks gestation and with a gorgeous head of hair, Julian was the picture of perfection.

But just six days later, Denise and Mat were forced to say goodbye to the newborn son they barely got a chance to know.

Julian death enterovirus

Julian died from a common virus – enterovirus after Denise contracted it during her 35th week of pregnancy. She had unknowingly passed it on to Julian and, tragically, his little body was not strong enough to fight it.

A loss like this is unimaginable. However, Denise and Matt are bravely sharing their story in the hope that what happened to them never happens to another family and that other pregnant mums will be aware of what to look for.

One is enough – Julian’s story

Denise recently shared Julian’s story on her Facebook page and it’s one we feel every parent and mother-to-be should read.

Two months ago we welcomed our beautiful baby boy Julian into this universe. Tragically he was taken from us on day six. Julian died from an insidious deadly virus – Enterovirus. The strain that killed him is Echovirus.”

Denise contracted the virus at 35 weeks pregnant. She experienced flu-like symptomschills and body aches. Worried about herself and her baby, she went to hopsital where she had blood tests and urine tests.

Everything came back ok. The baby was fine. I was discharged and told to rest and take Panadol to control any fever.”

Denise started to feel better and prepared for the upcoming birth. She had no idea that the virus had been transferred in utero to Julian.

‘Born healthy, or so we thought’

When Julian was born he was a perfectly healthy baby, or so we all thought,” – Denise explains.

On day three the virus started to take hold unbeknownst to any of us, including the medical staff.

Symptoms were masked under typical newborn behaviours. He was a bit grizzly and didn’t really want to feed as much. He was a bit jaundiced, they said, but his jaundice count was low.”

Julian with mum and dad - enterovirus warning

On day four Julian headed home with his proud parents to meet his big sister, Audrey. However, just two days later his worried parents returned to the hospital. Julian wasn’t feeding and was getting more and more lethargic.

We knew something was not right.” 

‘No drugs can save him’

At the hospital emergency ward, doctors discovered that Julain was bleeding internally with signs of unexplainable liver failure.

The doctor immediately recognised what Julian had – Echovirus 9. Rarely contracted. Deadly to infants. No cure. No drugs can save him.”

For five hours doctors did everything they could to save Julian but scans show he had severe bleeding and was brain dead.

Julian fought all the way and didn’t give up. The bravest little soul one could imagine. Mat and I then had to make the most unimaginable decision to have our son taken off life support. Julian died in our arms a little while later.”

Enterovirus in pregnancy – they don’t test for it

Denise’s story is one that no mother wants to ever have to tell. But, in light of the tragedy, she is hoping her son’s death will stop it from happening to another baby.

Pregnant woman get told to not eat shellfish, soft cheese, drink alcohol. To get the whooping cough vaccine. But not at any point do they tell you, “Hey, if you present with these type of flu-like symptoms you could be infected with enterovirus and it kills your baby”. They don’t test for it.”

All it would take is a simple swab test

Viruses are common but they really can be deadly, especially for newborns. Newborns are born with very little immunity and rely on their mother’s immunity to pass onto them. This takes time.

newborn julian died of enterovirus

In Julian’s case, it was too late in Denise’s pregnancy for the immunity to pass through the placenta to him.

Denise is hoping that in the future, doctors will provide a swab test to mothers who are ill later in pregnancy.

If a simple swab test could have been, perhaps then my doctor and I could have made an informed decision to keep Julian in utero for as long as we could to give him a chance to receive the smallest bit of immunity.

Even if it represented an extra 1% chance of life for him, we would have taken it – and we believe every other mother or father would do the same.”

One death from enterovirus is enough.

But, most likely, Julian is not the only one who has died from enterovirus. And now Denise and Mat are searching for other families who have experienced the same thing.

We need you. We need data, and we need other parents to come forward so that we can present this to the medical community and begin making progress. #1isenough.”

What is enterovirus

According to NSW Health, enteroviruses are very common and there are many strains. Most strains cause mild respiratory infections that clear up on their own. However, other strains are linked to infections such as viral meningitis, viral encephalitis (infection of the brain), polio, viral conjunctivitis and hand, foot and mouth disease.

Symptoms range from fever, runny nose and cough to skin rash, muscles aches, and sores. It is easily spread, there is no specific treatment and no vaccine in Australia to protect you from non-polio enterovirus infections.

Echovirus, the enterovirus strain that Julian died of, is among the leading causes of acute febrile illness in infants and young children and is associated with high infant mortality rates.

We are often told that if you are sick, even if you think it’s just a cold or flu, to stay away from small babies (especially newborns) and pregnant women. Julian’s devastating death is a stark reminder of just how important this message is.

If you are sick, stay away. Julian’s tragic loss is enough. One is enough.

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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