What is HLH, the rare disorder doctors believe afflicted ESPN’s Edward Aschoff, 34, prior to death

On Dec. 5, ESPN reporter Edward Aschoff posed a question to his social media followers.

"Anyone ever had multifocal (bilateral) pneumonia in their early 30s as some who never gets sick and has a very good immune system? Asking for two friends ... my lungs," he tweeted.

The charismatic college sports writer died less than three weeks later on his 34th birthday, just days after receiving the presumed diagnosis of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, in addition to the pneumonia he had battled since his coverage of the annual rivalry football game between Michigan and Ohio State on Nov. 30.

Katy Berteau, Aschoff's fiancée, penned a Twitter thread on Aschoff's account confirming his admission to the hospital one week after receiving the pneumonia diagnosis and detailing the HLH diagnosis, Today reported.

Doctors have not yet determined which condition Aschoff contracted first, if one ailment spawned the other or how his illness turned fatal so quickly, CNN reported.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, HLH is a rare autoimmune disorder that typically strikes infants and children but can form in adults compromised by myriad conditions, including infections and cancer.

Although fever and enlargement of the spleen are the most common HLH symptoms, other possible symptoms include:

• Enlargement of the liver

• Swollen lymph nodes

• Skin rashes

• Jaundice (yellow color of your skin and eyes)

• Lung problems, including coughing and difficulty breathing

• Digestive problems, including stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea

• Nervous system problems, including headache, trouble walking, visual disturbances and weakness

While about 25 percent of cases are inherited, genetic testing for HLH is not routine, and there is no way to prevent its contraction, CNN reported.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, HLH treatments – which have proven highly effective for acquired forms of the disorder – include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, steroids, antibiotic drugs, antiviral drugs and even stem cell transplants.

Aschoff and Berteau were slated to be married in April, Today reported.

According to ESPN, Aschoff joined the network in 2011 as part of the SEC blog network, which covers the NCAA Southeastern Conference. During the past three seasons, Aschoff reported from college campuses across the nation for ESPN.com, SportsCenter, SEC Network and ESPN radio.

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