21-Year-Old Thought Rest Would Take Care of Flu, Died

A tragic case amid what looks to be a severe flu season
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2018 12:18 PM CST
Updated Jan 14, 2018 7:01 AM CST
21-Year-Old Thought Rest Would Take Care of Flu, Died
A Fluzone influenza vaccine is shown at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in San Francisco, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

"I just think he ignored it," and it cost him his life, says the mother of Kyler Baughman, a 21-year-old Pennsylvania man who died days after Christmas. The cause: "Organ failure due to septic shock caused by influenza." The flu-related death is getting outsize attention in part because of Baughman's chosen career—he was studying to be a personal trainer, is described by his mother as "into physical fitness," and frequently posted photos of himself lifting weights to Facebook, reports the Washington Post. Beverly Baughman tells WPXI he seemed rundown over the Christmas holidays and came home from work early on the 26th. She says he thought rest would be a cure-all, but by the following day he was in the ER, and on the 28th he was dead in a Pittsburgh hospital.

  • His case: Dying from the flu is far from unheard of: CDC figures show 6.7% of all deaths in the US during the week ending Dec. 16 were related to pneumonia or the flu. It also notes that the flu was widespread in 46 states in the last week of 2017, with Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, and New Jersey reporting regional flu activity. But NBC 10 notes that the very young, the old, and those with fragile immune systems are most at risk; indeed, of the 18 flu deaths reported thus far in Pennsylvania for this flu season, Baughman's is the only one in the 19-49 age group.
  • His family's advice: Implores dad Todd Baughman, "Try and know your body. Don't let things go. Whenever you have a fever for multiple days, don't let it go, get it taken care of."

  • Flu shot: NBC 10 adds that Baughman's family says he did not get a flu shot, and the TV station speaks with a doctor who reminds others who have also failed to do so that shots are typically available until March 30, so it's not too late to act.
  • H3N2: Per the CDC, upwards of 90% of the hospitalizations that occurred due to flu between Oct. 1 and Dec. 30 had influenza A (as opposed to B) as their cause, and the vast majority of those with A suffered from the H3N2 strain. NBC News reported in December that the particular subtype can cause a more severe version of the flu. Australia's flu season precedes our own, and is generally seen as a reference point for what's to come. The flu vaccine there—which is the same as here—prevented only 10% of H3N2 cases, though the vaccine does generally reduce the severity of the illness. (ABC13 suggests the effectiveness of the vaccine against H3N2 is more like 30%.)
  • Signs it is worse: USA Today outlines some early indicators that this flu season might be an especially nasty one. It points out that Ohio has logged about 2,100 flu-related hospitalizations; at this point last year it was just 369. Another big jump: the number of deaths in California of those under age 65 by the end of December, which was 27, versus four the year prior.
  • An especially tragic case: Tennessee Department of Health officials say it learned Monday that a pregnant woman died in Middle Tennessee from the flu. No additional details on her location or identity were provided, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel, which notes that 3 children have also died from flu in the state.
(More influenza stories.)

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