23-year-old man is latest flu-related death

January 9, 2014 11:00 pm

swine flu

Flu diagnoses and even flu-related deaths are surging in the Bay Area.  Sonoma County’s lone death is a startling one, killing a 23-year-old man who authorities say was otherwise healthy.

“I can say I’m really sorry,” Sonoma County’s Health Officer Karen Holbrook told KTVU.

Patient privacy kept Holbrook from revealing details about the young man but she called his death Wednesday, from the H1N1 strain, a tragedy.

“And the family is grieving right now,” she added.

The man was one of the nine severe cases seen in the county this season.  At this time Holbrook could not say whether the other eight had recovered or were still in intensive care.

“Flu affects all ages, even young healthy people, every year,” she noted somberly.

At Santa Rosa’s Memorial Hospital, where flu sufferers are streaming in, an emergency room doctor expressed surprise that a young man had died of influenza.

“That is pretty unusual, a young healthy man dying of the flu. That’s pretty unusual but it can happen,” Dr. Evan Tobin told KTVU.

It happened in 2009-2010, when the flu struck down otherwise healthy, young and middle aged people, not considered high risk. Now H1N1 is back, part of the flu mix.

“It’s really all ages for this, sometimes they’re admitted, sometimes they go home, but in general they’re pretty sick,” explained Dr. Tobin.

The flu vaccine this year does cover the H1N1 strain, so it offers some protection from that particular strain.

Whether this outbreak will eclipse the last- in illness and death- is impossible to predict.

Many are left asking how someone healthy could die from the flu.  Doctors say the infection hits some people inexplicably hard- causing pneumonia, respiratory distress, and organ failure. Doctors say anti-flu medications work best when taken early and warn those feeling sick to not delay care.

“It’s fever, chills, really shaking type chills, where you’ve got uncontrollable shaking, muscle, joint, and body aches,” described Dr. Tobin. “You know it when you’ve got it.”