Scurvy, a disease associated with sailors and pirates of the past, has recently been implicated in the death of an 8-year-old Welsh boy. The coroner found other signs of malnutrition to be present in the child, such as low levels of folic acid, but it was decided that the scurvy, also known as vitamin C deficiency, had been the cause of death. So, how is it that an 18th century disease managed to claim a life in this 21st century world?

Dylan Mungo Seabridge, from Dolau, Eglwyswrw in Wales, died on Dec. 6, 2011 from scurvy, the BBC reported. His story has only now gone public because the inquest into whether there was criminal child negligence involved in his death has since ended. The court concluded that young Dylan’s parents did not play an active role in the development of his condition.

In the investigation, it was revealed that an ambulance was called to the Seabridge residence after Dylan’s parents found the child unconscious and not breathing. The ambulance crew noted that he had bruising on his ankle and knee, and swollen legs. Dylan went into cardiac arrest at the hospital and soon passed away.

Bruising and painful joints are symptoms of scurvy, and although Dylan’s parents told doctors that he had long had these problems, they never sought medical attention because they believed he was simply suffering from growing pains. In actuality, the symptoms were caused by an extreme vitamin deficiency. However, according to Professor Joris Dlanghe, a specialist from Belgium who had taken part in the inquest into the child’s death, says to this day, “The parents don’t accept that Dylan died of scurvy.”

Scurvy is by far not as popular today as it was centuries ago. Increased awareness of the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as the introduction of fortified foods into many countries has made the condition rare but not completely unheard of. According to a 2008 study, although traditional pirates may be gone, scurvy is still alive and thriving in not just underdeveloped countries but developed countries as well. “Scurvy presently occurs in developed countries among poor elderly patients, those institutionalized with diets devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables, and those with a history of alcoholism, mental illness, or chronic illness,” wrote the researchers.

Others at risk for developing the potentially deadly deficiency are those who practice crash dieting, those with very restrictive diets due to allergies, people with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, smokers (who need more of the vitamin than non-smokers), and fussy eaters who refuse to eat their fruits and veggies.

The condition, when diagnosed, is easy to treat. All one needs to do is increase daily intake of vitamin C. It’s often recommended that patients meet with a dietitian to ensure that the condition does not return.