Kayla Nicole Sutter’s death in March was once thought to be linked to the recent E. coli outbreak in Central Florida because she had visited the same petting zoo at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City that was related to several cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney disease.
But the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office recently pinned the girl’s cause of death to bronchopneumonia, a far more common illness.
“Pneumonia can be life-threatening,” said Bill Pellan, director of investigations. “People do die of pneumonia. Just like someone can die from complications of it, or from influenza. You see deaths during flu season, and this is just regular old pneumonia.”
“Pneumonias are nasty,” said Dr. Marc Yacht, director of the Pasco County Health Department. “What they’re basically doing is, they’re compromising the person’s ability to get oxygen because their respiratory tree is filling up with fluid.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69,954 people died nationally of the respiratory diseases pneumonia and influenza in 2002.