Schoolgirl Dies of COVID Just Six Days After Developing Mild Cough

An inquest has heard how a 12-year-old schoolgirl died from COVID less than a week after developing what had been described as a "minor cough."

Fabiana Zoppelli from Oldham, in the north of England, first showed signs of the virus on June 1, 2020, the Manchester Evening Newsreported. Her mother, Itohan Ehiggie, sought medical advice two days later when the girl developed a rash and began vomiting.

During the two-day inquest, which began on Monday at Rochdale Coroner's Court it was revealed that Zoppelli was taken to the Accident and Emergency department of the Royal Oldham Hospital, on June 3. When her breathing began to deteriorate, staff at the hospital initially suspected that she was suffering from a chest infection and placed her on an oxygen machine.

The 12-year-old was also given a PCR test on admission. The positive COVID test result was not received by the hospital until 9:30 p.m. on June 5, four days after her initial symptoms had developed. The inquest was told this delay did not affect the child's treatment.

Zoppelli was then transferred to Manchester Children's Hospital, where she was once again ventilated.

The Manchester Evening News added that doctors at the hospital said her temperature was elevated at 40C (104F), a very high fever. Medical staff also reported that her oxygen levels became harder to maintain and that the 12-year-old began to look "pale and tired."

As Zoppelli's condition continued to worsen, the inquest heard that the decision was made to transfer her to Liverpool's Alder Hey children's hospital. At the facility, Zoppelli would have been placed on a xtracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine.

The purpose of a ECMO machine is to pump blood outside a patient's body, removing carbon dioxide, and send oxygenated blood back into the body. The machine would have supported Zoppelli's breathing and cardiac function.

On June 7, while leaving Manchester Children's Hospital on a mobile ventilator, the 12-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest, from which, despite efforts from attending staff, she did not recover.

At the inquest, Zoppelli's mother asked why her daughter could not have been transferred to Alder Hey earlier. The Manchester Evening News reported that doctors said this could not be done as her condition was extremely unstable.

Ehiggie also spoke of her daughter's love of music, food, and helping others, especially younger children.

The 12-year-old moved to the U.K. in 2015 from Italy. Despite suffering from a rare genetic disorder called floating-harbor syndrome, which left her shorter than many children of her age and with delayed speech, Zoppelli was in good health.

Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust pediatric consultant Prakash Kamath told the inquest: "It was a very new illness and the belief at the time was that children did not suffer complications from COVID. At the time, COVID was very less understood, not just for adults, even more for children.

"We have never seen children suffering from COVID complications like Fabiana did. This is a very unusual case in a child."

Assistant coroner Nicholas Flanagan ruled that Fabiana died as a result of natural causes, specifically pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by coronavirus.

Flanagan also ruled that while floating-harbor syndrome may have contributed to the child's death, it did not lead to it.

"She was an amazing girl," Corpus Christi primary school in Oldham, which the 12-year-old had attended, said in a tribute. "Fabiana enriched both our school and the whole community with her great enthusiasm and love for life. She was a friend to everyone and tried her best in everything she did."

The school also set up a Just Giving crowdfunding page to help Zoppelli's family, which raised £4,157 ($5,660), exceeding its target of £4,000.

In a statement sent to Newsweek via email, the County of Greater Manchester North District Coroners, said: "Fabiana Zoppelli was generally a healthy child, before she developed a cough on the 1st June 2020 despite no known contact with Covid-19. Her symptoms progressed to fever and vomiting when Fabiana was admitted to the Royal Oldham Hospital on the 4th of June, where she required oxygen support, and a swab was taken for analysis.

"Fabiana's condition varied on the 5th June but deteriorated significantly overnight on the 5 - 6th of June. Fabiana was diagnosed with Covid-19 on the 6th of June and was transferred to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital for further treatment.

"Fabiana's condition worsened on the 7th of June, despite extensive intervention. As Fabiana was about to be transferred to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool for ECMO treatment, she hemorrhaged and then died at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital on 7th June 2020."

UPDATE 10/14/21 6:28 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include a statement from the County of Greater Manchester North District Coroners.

 Fabiana Zoppelli
Fabiana Zoppelli on a school trip to Paris. The 12-year-old died of COVID six days after developing a mild cough. Corpus Christi RC Primary School