Dr. Mary Groll shared medical perspective on federal case regarding child neglect
In late August 2020, a 12-year-old girl, Kaitlyn Yozviak, was found unconscious in her home in rural Georgia. Her cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest and the secondary cause as severe anemia, the result of repeated lice bites that lowered her blood iron levels.
The unusual conclusion that lice could have killed a child raised doubts among some doctors and scientists. But child welfare specialists said the details of the case underscored deep concerns about how the coronavirus pandemic has cut many children off from teachers, counselors and doctors who could report possible signs of neglect or abuse, especially as families struggle with the economic crisis.
Dr. Mary Groll, professor of health sciences at North Central College, was quoted in the New York Times on this case.
“There have been a handful of cases of children with severe lice infestations who were hospitalized for low levels of anemia,” said Dr. Groll. “But I don’t know of any deaths from it. It is possible a child could suffer a fatal arrhythmia if hemoglobin levels fell precipitously. But before concluding that the lice alone were the cause, a doctor would need to know if there were other factors, like a diet of processed foods or menstruation.”