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Girl's death remains mystery; West Nile ruled out

Sandra L. Johnson wants to know why her daughter, Jordan, died Sept. 1.

The 15-year-old, a sophomore and volleyball player at Tri-County North High School in Lewisburg, died of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, at Children’s Medical Center of Dayton.

What she and health officials don’t know — and are trying to find out — is what triggered the encephalitis, which is most often caused by a viral infection. Bacterial and fungal infections can also cause encephalitis.

Preble County and Ohio health officials confirmed it was not West Nile virus, now a public health threat in 48 states, including Ohio.

Jordan was tested for the virus at Dayton Children’s. Doctors told Johnson the initial results were negative. If West Nile had been the culprit, the state would already have the test results confirming it, said Tessie Pollock, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health. No West Nile infections have been reported in Preble County, she added.

Now Johnson said she is waiting for the rest of the test results to be completed. “I don’t want to know, but I do want to know,” she said. “Whatever I find out is not going to change the outcome. It’ s not going to bring her back. But maybe it will help another child or an adult who gets these same symptoms.”

Losing a child is heartbreaking enough, Johnson said, but adding to her pain are online posts on social media sites and speculation about what caused Jordan’s death. She said some of the posts mention West Nile virus, others say Jordan suffered a stroke.

“I’m sick of Facebook and all the lies people are posting,” she said. “To this day, I still can’t tell you what happened to my daughter.”

Jordan had just started her sophomore year, and it was going great, Johnson said. She had a boyfriend who was a member of the football team. “She liked going to football games and wearing his jersey. She only got to wear it once, but I’m glad she got to experience that,” Johnson said. “This was going to be the year. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen for her.”

And she loved volleyball, playing for both the junior varsity and varsity teams. She’d participated in three scrimmages and was scheduled to play Aug. 27.

But she was too sick, her mother said. Her symptoms — nausea, back pain, headache and fever — started on Aug. 26. She went to school the next day, but was very sick that night. On Aug. 28, she was admitted to Dayton Children’s, and four days later, she died in the ICU.

The community has been very supportive since Jordan’s death, Johnson said. Her volleyball teammates are selling commemorative T-shirts to help raise money for the family, and other fund-raisers are in the works. Even competing teams sent flowers to her funeral.

Johnson said she cannot go back to work yet as an office manager at American Architectural Glass in Clayton.

“If I’m home, I’m with her,” she said.