San Diego

11-Year-Old Dies From Bacteria Contracted From Tacos in Tijuana: Family

Juan had symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration for more than two weeks. He died Sunday afternoon

A Normal Heights family is looking for answers after doctors say their 11-year-old son died from an unknown bacteria.

Juan Osiris Covarrubias of Normal Heights fainted at a youth football practice on Friday, August 2 and died two days later.

The child suffered from diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration for more than two weeks, family members said. 

NBC 7 first reported Tuesday that the Covarrubias family said a bacteria was likely contracted after Juan ate tacos at a stand in Tijuana, Mexico.

However, as of Wednesday, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office and Rady Children's Hospital could not confirm bacteria as the cause of death. There was also no confirmation the source of the child's illness was a taco stand in Tijuana.  

The family said they traveled to Tijuana on July 24 to pick up his grandmother. On their way back to the border that evening, the family stopped at a taco stand they had never gone to before.

"We passed by the stand, a big stand, people coming and going," said Celeste Alaniz, Juan’s aunt. "It looked really good, and he said, 'Tia that's the place.'"

The family ate at the stand and came back to their home in San Diego.

"He was normal. He was fine. All of us were fine," Alaniz said. "He was fine all week."

But a week and a half later, the symptoms began.

"Diarrhea, vomiting, fever, dehydrated, pale," Alaniz said.

Alaniz told NBC 7 the symptoms dragged on and off. Last Friday, Juan finally felt well enough to go to football practice at the park near Clark Middle School.

But after a couple of drills, Juan became sick again.

"My brother said when he walked towards him, that's when he fainted," Alaniz said. "He fainted and he fell face first."

Juan was taken to the Rady Children’s hospital. Juan’s organs had been shutting down for weeks, the family told NBC 7. 

He died on Sunday afternoon. The family said doctors are looking for answers.

"They did say it was of bacteria, but up to now they don't know exactly what bacteria it is," Alaniz said.

At this time there is no medical evidence linking the illness to the taco stand. An autopsy will determine the cause of death.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office has waived their investigation on this case, a spokesperson said. 

Rady Children's Hospital has conducted tests to determine if a bacteria contributed to the child's death, according to hospital spokesperson Carlos Delago.

Delgado said the parents have not authorized the hospital to release the results of the tests to NBC 7.  

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of funeral expenses.

Ed. Note: This article has been updated to include responses from the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office and a spokesperson at Rady Children's Hospital.

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