I noted that this year’s flu season was likely to be harsh, especially in the wake of an ineffective vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifying it as “moderately severe” and anticipating over 50,000 deaths.

However, numbers and statistics are meaningless when a parent loses a child over a “simple case of the flu”. This year’s flu has claimed a number of young lives already.

California is being hit particularly hard, with reports of at least 27 deaths of people under the age of 65 in the state since October.

The virus that’s predominating this year is Influenza A (H3N2), and that tends to be more severe. It affects the elderly and the very young, epidemiologist Lynnette Brammer, who leads the CDC’s Domestic Influenza Surveillance Team, told Fox News.

But the flu can hit anyone.

Mimma Mallozzi, the mother of 10-year-old Nico, shared her grief over his death due to flu-induced sepsis, as a warning to others about that nature of this disease.

Nico came down with what seemed like an average case of the flu last week. Though he was sick, he seemed well enough to accompany his hockey team, the Connecticut RoughRiders, to a weekend tournament in New York, the New Canaan News reports. While in New York, however, Nico’s health took a sudden turn.

“He progressively got worse,” Mallozzi remembers. “I didn’t like the way he looked.” Mallozzi called 911 on the family’s way home from the tournament, and Nico was taken to a New York hospital. On Sunday, he died from sepsis resulting from pneumonia — a complication of the flu, according to the New York medical examiner’s office.

“He was just a carefree, fearless, easy-going child, full of energy,” Mallozzi says. “It’s actually a nightmare.”

What is particularly troubling is how quickly this version of the flu ravaged the health of robust young people in good condition. The deaths of a 21-year-old bodybuilder in Pennsylvania and a 40-year-old California marathoner have been widely reported and have raised concerns about this year’s flu strain.

The 2018 flu season marks the centennial anniversary of the pandemic known as the Spanish Influenza. One of the hallmarks of this strain was the way it turned the infected person’s immune system against itself. The notorious virus is suspected to have triggered a “cytokine storm“, which eventually causes a fatal case of pneumonia and tends to target people with stronger immune systems.

A cytokine storm is an overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds (cytokines), which, in a flu infection, is often associated with a surge of activated immune cells into the lungs. The resulting lung inflammation and fluid buildup can lead to respiratory distress and can be contaminated by a secondary bacterial pneumonia—often enhancing the mortality in patients.

This little-understood phenomenon is thought to occur in at least several types of infections and autoimmune conditions, but it appears to be particularly relevant in outbreaks of new flu variants. Cytokine storm is now seen as a likely major cause of mortality in the 1918-20 “Spanish flu”—which killed more than 50 million people worldwide—and the H1N1 “swine flu” and H5N1 “bird flu” of recent years.

In these epidemics, the patients most likely to die were relatively young adults with apparently strong immune reactions to the infection—whereas ordinary seasonal flu epidemics disproportionately affect the very young and the elderly.

New findings indicate that the standard recommendations for flu prevention may not be enough, as the virus is transmitted via airborne exposures more readily than first thought.

The study — which included researchers from San Jose State University and UC Berkeley — provides new evidence for the potential importance of the flu’s airborne transmission because of the large quantities of infectious virus researchers found in the exhaled breath from people suffering from flu.

“The study findings suggest that keeping surfaces clean, washing our hands all the time, and avoiding people who are coughing does not provide complete protection from getting the flu,”
Sheryl Ehrman, dean of the College of Engineering at San Jose State University, said in a statement.

“Staying home and out of public spaces could make a difference in the spread of the influenza virus.”

In conclusion, follow the CDC prevention guidelines, pay attention to outbreaks where you live and avoid those venues, and don’t dismiss prolonged high fevers or other unusual symptoms as “just the flu”.