The Flu Killed a Healthy 21-Year-Old Man. Here's How That Can Happen

From TIME - January 11, 2018

Most people view influenza as a routine, if unpleasant, possibility each winter. But the case of a 21-year-old man in Pennsylvania is a poignant reminder that sometimes, the worst-case scenario is more serious than sick days and bed rest.

Kyle Baughman, an aspiring personal trainer living in Latrobe, came home for Christmas not feeling well, his mother, Beverly, told WPXI. His symptoms persisted after returning to work after the holidays. I think he thought, I just got the flu, Ill be alright. Ill go rest a little bit,' Beverly Baughman told WPXI.

Just a few days later, however, Kyle Baughman died at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian hospital from flu-related organ failure, according to his family.

TIME asked Peter Shearer, director of the emergency department at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City (who was not involved in Baughmans case), how and why the flu can turn fatal.

Why does the flu turn deadly?

Influenza can be a very serious illness, Shearer says. Even though the vast majority of the public that comes down with actual influenza will get through it with Tylenol, fluids, Motrin, whatever, there are people who do get very sick.

Deadly cases are mostly limited to the very young, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, such as respiratory illnesses, but Shearer says a very small percentage of otherwise healthy people do develop serious complications. Youve got a lot more mucus production, coughing, et cetera. It sets you up for possibly a bacterial infection [such as bacterial pneumonia] on top of [flu symptoms], Shearer says. For some people with pneumonia, it will spread to their bloodstream and cause an overwhelming, multi-system infection. While these cases are extremely infrequent, they can sometimes end in death, Shearer says.

What should you do if you have the flu?

How can you tell if the flu is serious?

Is it too late to get a flu shot?


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