The Grapevine

Flu Season 2020 Update: More Deaths Reported

“She'd get better.” That was what the family of a 16-year-old thought when she contracted the flu, which only took weeks to take her life. 

Kaylee Roberts was healthy and able to celebrate Christmas with her family in suburban Cleveland. Kaylee died because of complications linked to flu on New Year's Eve, KSL.com reported.

"She was a healthy, happy, normal 16-year-old," Kaylee's uncle Matthew Roberts said. "We knew she had the flu, but we figured it would knock her on her butt for a few days, and then she'd get better. We were never expecting such a grave outcome."

Kaylee is among the latest young victims of the flu season in the U.S. Deaths of people under the age of 18 have been increasing, with nearly 40 cases recorded since September, according to federal health officials. 

Kaylee contracted the influenza B virus and started to show signs of flu four days before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the teenager was rushed to a hospital in Berea, Ohio.

Doctors diagnosed Kaylee with the flu and provided antiviral medication and a treatment for dehydration. Her parents admitted to doctors that she did not receive a flu vaccine this season. 

Kaylee returned home the next morning and celebrated Christmas with her family at her aunt's house. But she continued to show symptoms of flu, such as coughing.

On Dec. 27, Kaylee returned to the emergency room because her condition got worse. Two days later, she started to experience trouble breathing and her entire left lung and most of her right lung were affected by pneumonia.

Kaylee on Dec. 31, passed away because of flu-related complications. Her family launched a GoFundMe page for her medical and funeral expenses.

"It's such a terribly sad event," Dr. William Schaffner, an advisor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on infectious diseases, said. "But sometimes the flu captures a young person and in short order makes them literally gravely ill."

Flu Effects On Young People

Health experts commonly warn that elderly people have a high risk of contracting the flu and suffering from serious health problems. However, children and teenagers are also at risk of deadly complications even they appear healthy. 

That is because of their strong immune system. When the system fights an infection in young, healthy people, it could become “uncontrolled or uncoordinated” and lead to a devastating response, according to Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

For example, the immune system sends white blood cells to the lungs to fight pneumonia. In young people, having a robust immune system can lead to excess levels of white blood cells, which then blocks airways.

Health experts recommend that people of all ages get a flu vaccine to prevent complications of the flu.

flu vaccine In 2018, flu sent more than 500,000 people to hospitals and caused 50,000 deaths across the U.S, but during a later stage in the season. Pixabay

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