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Girl, 13, dies from severe allergic reaction at Calif. camp

Natalie Giorgi
Natalie Giorgi

A young girl suffered a severe allergic reaction on Friday after biting into a dessert during a family vacation to a camp in California, according to police.

Officers and paramedics rushed to Camp Sacramento to treat Natalie Giorgi, 13, who had stopped breathing late Friday night due to an anaphylactic reaction, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.

Giorgi was transported to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead a little over an hour later, police said.

Kelly Brothers, 49, a friend of the Giorgi family, was with the victim when she bit into a rice crispy treat, which triggered her peanut allergy.

He said the treats were passed around during a dance at “the end of a perfect camp day.”

The auditorium was dark, he said, so Giorgi thought the dessert had a chocolate topping, but the moment she took a bite, he said she "immediately spit it out and said 'I think there’s peanut butter in there.'"

Brothers, who was aware of the young girl’s allergy, called her parents over.

“For 15-20 minutes, she was fine,” he said.

But suddenly Giorgi began to feel sick and her father, who is a physician, injected her with three EpiPens, designed to prevent anaphylactic shock during an allergic reaction.

“She fought,” said Brothers, “she just couldn’t catch her breath.” He said paramedics were on the scene within 15 minutes of calling 911.

Emergency workers transferred the young girl to an ambulance, but police told Brothers and his wife that Giorgi would be pronounced dead at the hospital “so we would know what we were walking into,” he said.

“When I was growing up allergies meant sneezing or coughing, not sudden death,” said Brothers.

Brothers said Giorgi was “always very diligent about what she ate.” He said she was always armed with her EpiPen and sat at a table at school that was deemed "peanut free."

Brothers said Giorgi’s parents feel guilty for not acting quickly enough, but “she had never had a reaction like this before.” They “are holding up best they can,” he added.

Camp Sacramento issued a statement regarding the young girl’s death, reading in part, “On behalf of the city, we are deeply saddened by the sudden death of one of our young campers ... Our thoughts are with the family.”

According to a 2013 study by the CDC, the number of children who suffer from food allergies increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.

John Lehr, CEO of Food Allergy Research & Education, said in an email that, while only four percent of the U.S. population has a food allergy, eight percent of children have been diagnosed with a food allergy.

And the amount of people with peanut allergies tripled between 1997 and 2008, said Lehr.

He said “scientists do not yet know why there has been such an increase in food allergy prevalence,” but “there is a prevailing thought that the rise could be attributed to some combination of genetic and environmental factors.”

“We advise parents to make sure they read the ingredient label, every time,” he said.