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Flu Kills Graduate Student Who Tried to Call 911

Health officials assure community that Yming Shen didn't die of the coronavirus
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2020 6:30 PM CST

(Newser) – After a garbled call to 911, the system was able to trace the caller to an apartment complex but not to a specific apartment. Police and firefighters searched the area for 45 minutes Monday, the Times-Union reports, but couldn't find the caller in the Troy, New York, apartments. Yeming Shen's roommate found him later, six hours after the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student had tried to summon help. He died of the flu, an autopsy found, per the Post-Star. It was influenza A, which the county health director said "comes on very sudden and severe." Health and campus officials offered assurances that Shen, a doctoral student who was from China but hadn't been home in at least 13 months, did not die of the new coronavirus.

The school's health director said the campus has five times the number of flu cases it usually has at this time of year—and it's out of flu vaccine. "What happened this year was flu came in quite early," the county health official said. "And when it comes in early it does sometimes divide and mutate, and so we have a couple strains circulating right now." Because the young and old are most at risk, she said, others tend to dismiss the danger. "Flu kills people," she said. "I think a lot of times we take it for granted because it comes around every year, but it's a very serious virus and it kills people." (Read more flu stories.)

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