RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Health officials say the flu-related death of a North Carolina teenager is serving as a sad and important reminder that it's not to late to protect yourself. Virginia is reporting two pediatric deaths so far this flu season.
Katie Taylor, 18, was a high school senior with dreams of becoming a vet. She died last week when the swine flu virus attacked her heart. Doctors say she was otherwise a healthy young woman.
"It's very sad that it would take a young life that quickly with really no serious warning signs," said her father, Roy Taylor.
He is mourning the loss of his daughter, Katie. She died last Thursday from complications related to the flu.
Health officials say this type of tragedy is unfortunately more common than you might think.
"Every year we have people who die in Virginia who have flu," said Dr. Keri Hall, Director of Division of Epidemiology, VDH. 'It can range anywhere from a mild illness all the way to a very severe illness that causes deaths, and some of those who die are not those that you might expect; they are healthy people sometimes."
Katie's father says her illness started off as a runny nose and cough then gradually became worse.
Her family took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with swine flu. Katie later died from oxygen deprivation caused by her failing heart.
"It was very fast. I want to make people aware that this is a very serious strain and they shouldn't take it lightly," Taylor said.
"Flu can do more things to your body than just cause a severe cold; it can affect your heart; that is a rare complication of flu, but it is one that we know about," Dr. Hall said.
Cases of the flu are increasing in Virginia, but it's not too late to get vaccinated. Flu season can last until April, and health officials say this year's vaccine seems to be working.
And it's important to get vaccinated even if you've already been sick because you could get another strain of the flu.
"Also when people think they've had the flu but haven't been tested and confirmed to have the flu, they may have had another type of virus, so they should still get vaccinated," Dr. Hall said.
Doctors say once you get the flu vaccine, it can take up to a couple of weeks to work. If you've already been exposed to the virus, and still get sick, a vaccine could lead to a less severe case.
FOR MORE: http://www.vdh.state.va.us/Influenza/