Are Healthy People Dying of the Flu?

Updated on January 15, 2013
B.B. asks from Bedminster, NJ
22 answers

The flu is all over the news and the dealth report is climbing. I just heard 20 children died of it. They don't say if they were healthy or not. My gut reaction is to think they were very young, immuno-suppressed, or sick to begin with. Most of the people who die from the flu are elderly. Does anyone know about those children that have died from it this year?

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answers from Dallas on

I'm a healthy young woman (30 is young, right?). In 2010 I almost died of complications of the flu. I was hospitalized for a week with pneumonia that resulted from the Influenza A strain.

So yes, healthy people can and do die from the flu.

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answers from Dallas on

Yes, there are "healthy" people dying of the flu. I know that here in TX there was an 18yr old athletic young man who came down with the flu Christmas night and was dead 12/29. I also know of a 22yr old healthy young lady in OH who came down with flu and died last week. What seems to happen is that they get the flu and then get pneumonia, bronchitis and/or strep on top of it. So, they die from a combination of illness so that it's not solely the flu. At the end of the day, though, yes, some people who are typically considered healthy are dying.

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answers from Miami on

Sigh. People who call any kind of sickness a "flu" just don't seem to understand that influenza is SPECIFIC, including influenza A, influenza B and the swine flu (H1N1). They can actually diagnose these with nose swabs. They don't ASSUME that someone has the flu - they use a TEST to diagnose it. Vomiting is NOT the flu. PLEASE let go of this. It just makes people roll their eyes and know that you don't know what the heck you're talking about. OR it makes someone who is ignorant actually believe that everytime they get a stomach bug that they have the flu that a flu shot should have kept them from getting.

It also can HURT someone, this ignorance of what the flu is. They could actually have food poisoning, think that they have the flu, and not go get help. They have all these toxins in their body and just stay at home saying they have the flu, and can end up with organ failure.

What I really don't understand is that with all these threads about the flu here on MP, including reminding people that "stomach flu" and the flu shot have NOTHING to do with each other, we're still getting lectures from people telling us they haven't thrown up for years. Gee, the day you DO get the flu and there's no throwing up, maybe you'll figure this out?

Again, sigh...


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answers from Seattle on

MzKitty, the stomach "flu" is not the flu. The flu shot, no matter how effective, will do nothing to stop the stomach flu. Why? Because the stomach flu isn't the flu, it's a gastrointestinal virus. Your mom gets a flu shot every year and gets a stomach virus every year. That's not unexpected. It's the same as saying I got a tetanus shot and then caught a cold. Your post is nonsensical.

Healthy kiddos die from the flu every year. Way more healthy people die from the flu than get serious complications from the flu shot. The numbers lie in favor of getting the flu shot. And, even when the flu shot isn't totally effective, it can reduce the severity of the flu once caught.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

When I was 20 (and healthy as a horse, had never had the flu before, and of course had never had the flu shot at that point), I was hospitalized due to the flu. I felt horrible for several days, went to see my doctor, who called an ambulance and had me admitted to the ER. So, yes, perfectly healthy people can die from the flu. I might have, had I not gone to see the doctor when I did.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

There was a huge world wide flu pandemic during WWI. More soldiers died from the flu than battle related injuries.

The flu is a respiratory illness, sometimes it becomes pneumonia and that is the actual cause of death. The flu is nothing to mess with. If you are sick stay home, wash hands often, and take reasonable precautions to stay healthy.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

There are people, including children, who were otherwise perfectly healthy prior to having the flu who are contracting the flu and dying. Most of them so far have NOT been very young, immune-suppressed, or sick already. And the flu season hasn't even started yet.

The Influenza is now in 47 states and reaching epidemic proportions.

It's very scary. It's all in the respiratory system, and I'm actually quite fearful right now even though I had my flu vaccination because I AM immune-compromised (I have Fibromyalgia and related health issues). I'm recovering from a severe care of bronchitis and was finally able to go back to work today after being home with one of my daughters (who has had bronchial pneumonia or bronchitis) last week for four days... and she was on Tamiflu just to be cautious. I work in a business where every single coworker has a compromised immune system and so do our consumers. As long as I'm "recovering" I'm at very high risk.

I had to bring in a dr's note to prove I'm not contagious. Most offices in my area are asking employees to do the same thing. Get checked out preventatively and/or "just to be sure" and bring in a note or stay home until you're well. When healthy teenagers and early-20's are dropping dead from the flu, it's serious.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

At least one was a normal healthy kid.

Actually there are flu strains which hit young adults worse than kids or elderly.
The Spanish Flu of 1918 was like that - which was why there were so many orphans.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Green Bay on

In regards to young children getting the flu...

I have had THE flu...influenza A, I think it was? And I felt like I was hit by a bus for over a week, maybe even a couple weeks before I was REALLY back to normal. I was an adult. It was awful.

Once when my son was sick, our doctor told us that infants and young toddlers don't have a lot of "energy reserves" so when they get sick, i.e. the flu or other respiratory illness where they have to "work harder" to breathe and keep oxygen levels up, they don't have the "energy reserves" to keep things okay. That if they get sick, they can get sick FAST, even if they were "healthy" before.

My son was admitted to the hospital over New Years Eve last year, when he was 18 mo, for this reason. He had a simple cold and it settled in his lungs and he was really struggling to breathe. Now in hindsight, we think he may have some asthma issues going on because every time he gets a cold he seems to have some breathing issues. But back then, he was working really hard to breathe and little bodies cant keep working that hard for very long. So, for us, he was admitted, monitored, and was okay the next morning.

Once children get to the point where their bodies are working hard just to maintain something like oxygen level, things can go downhill FAST! We noticed DS breathing a little heavy in the AM, but by early evening it was bad and when we took him to the walk in clinic they did a nebulizer to stablize him and then sent us to ER....It is scary how fast it can happen. So, I think if people don't pay attention to their symptoms and take care of themselves, then yeah, healthy people probably could die :-( Scary... It is important to know the difference between a cold, the FLU, and a stomach/gastrointestinal virus. And know what the different things look like in children as well!

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answers from San Francisco on

I don't believe they are.

The fact that people are going to the emergency room with flu may actually be more an indication of how many people do not have health insurance or primary care physicians, rather than an objective measure of how severe the flu is this year.

The only reason they are saying the flu is "the worst they've seen since 2003" is based off reported cases that show up in the ER. On the news I was seeing some pretty wussy flu sufferers claiming they felt like they've been "hit by a bus" in gurneys that probably should have just been at home in bed, or at least at their regular doctor being told they should be at home in bed... if they could afford a regular doctor. Instead, they use the ER as their regular doctor. This is an indication of just how bad our health care system is. People going to the ER for body aches and sniffles. This gives the community a false impression that this flu season is "horribad".

I looked up the city that declared a state of emergency for the flu. That city was Boston. After looking at the numbers, it really isn't as bad as the news makes it out to be. Here's some numbers for you:

As of July 2011 the population of Boston was: 625,087 (U.S. Census Bureau)

"Boston has seen about 700 confirmed cases of influenza since the season began in October, a 10-fold jump over the 70 cases reported for all of last year, said Nick Martin, a spokesman for the Boston Public Health Commission."...

"The city has recorded four deaths since October, Martin said. All of those deaths were in elderly people."*

So to sum up, out of 625,087 people in that given city, 700 got sick and four elderly people died. Quick, everybody panic!


(More numbers for you before we continue: The population of the entire united states as of July 2011 was 311,591,917)

"Nationwide, the flu has spread to more than 80 percent of the U.S., latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated. More than 2,200 people had been hospitalized since October, and 18 children have died. Other viruses besides the flu are also circulating -- CDC data shows only about a third of all people with flu-like symptoms actually are testing positive for influenza."

To sum THAT up. Out of 311,591,917 only 2,200 have been to the hospital since October and the number of children that died is a reported 18. They article didn't say, but I'd suspect those kids that succumbed to the illness were either very very young or immunocompromised.

The news has sensationalized the severity of this flu season and it has people scared. All the while the pharm company is laughing all the way to the bank.

I got the shot this year to make my mother, who is an avid news consumer, peace of mind. She paid for it and I was happy to make her happy, however I really think based off the numbers alone, people are blowing this way out of proportion. A mountain out of a molehill if you will. My 2 cents for what it's worth.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My 15 year old niece was really sick last week and her dad and stepmom didn't even realize she was sick. My sister talked to her on the phone and left work to get her to the doctor. They did a nose swab and she did have the flu, but I don't know which one. Anyway, she was contagious and had to stay out of school for 7-10 days. This was last Tuesday I think. On Friday when my sis got home, she took a look at her daughter and took her to the ER. If she hadn't been staying with her mom, my neice would have died from dehydration. This was really scary to us needless to say. I won't go into what we think of her dad and stepmom...

She didn't have her flu shot because she has psoriasis and the shot can make the immune system activate, and that can make the psoriasis flare. It the same reason my doctor wouldn't let me have one too.

So, to answer your question, yes, healthy people who do not get the care they need can indeed die from the flu. It is very sad!!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

In MN we had one young (14) year old girl who was otherwise healthy (no immuno-suppressed or sick) die from the flu last week. SO sad.


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

On the news last night, they said most had underlying health issues. They call it dying of "flu related illnesses," rather then dying of the flu alone. Meaning, they had the flu, but also had other things that contributed to their death. I hope I explained that, in a way that makes sense!! Most did not die JUST of the flu. Still, the hardest hit age group is the 65 and over crowd. If I remember correctly, the news reported an average of 13.3 people out of 100,000 people are getting the flu right now.

The CDC said in the right conditions, the vaccine is 62% effective this year. What people have to realize, is there ARE people who get the vaccine and still die and get ill. It's not all vaccinated, and yes...most have poor immune system function to begin with. SOME healthy people do die of the flu. That's not saying much, since healthy people die of things all the time. MOST people who die of the flu, have other underlying issues. (That's why it's such BIG news, to report on the healthy people that dies of the flu. It's not common, so it's news worthy.)

ETA: I am talking about influenza, to be clear.

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answers from Honolulu on

Don't know.
*(adding this): and last week, I read a news article that said the Flu is actually waning.....

My Mom was watching the news about it, she is a Senior, and she says "I can die!" She tends to get swept up by media emotions and overly carried away. Anyway, I told her, people can die everyday from many things... I can too. The kids can too. I have Asthma and I am more prone to it. We got our shots, it is not 100% but we take precautions. Everyone should. I even got my Pneumonia shot. As a precaution.
And secondary illnesses can occur.
Sorry, but my Mom tends to get overly carried away by things and it drives me nuts. (just venting here)

Sure, the news about the Flu is alarming.
Even healthy people can be suddenly taken down by illness.
Going to the Doctor right away, is imperative.
If ill. No matter what age.
The Flu and its various strains... are and can be, dangerous.

In my State, a year or so ago, a 6 month old baby died from Pertussis.
So things like this, also happens. Pertussis is or still is (?) epidemic in some States. Even adults should get the booster shots and teens. For example.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Most people that die from the flu have underlying issues to begin with.
And I would suppose if you are completely healthy and don't treat the flu properly, you "could" die.
A flu shot doesn't mean you won't get one or many of the flu strains out there. It means that if you get that particular strain, it won't be as severe.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Study: 97 percent of children affected by 2009 mumps outbreak were vaccinated for condition

Learn more:

I think this is very interesting. The healthiest person in my family was my grandma and she died early of a stroke. There are opinions on both sides. I can only go by what I have seen with my own eyes. My mom insists on getting a flu shot every single year "so she doesn't get sick". Well, she gets a "flu" every single year. My husband and I have not gotten a flu shot in 20+ years and we have not had any kind of stomach flu since. Same thing for my kids, they have not thrown up since they were babies. We faithfully take a multi-vitamin/mineral every day, don't eat "real" healthy, are not a crazy housecleaner or hand sanatizer-user. I don't know, maybe we are just blessed with healthier genes than others are.

Some people say the flu shot is not for "every" flu. So who cares if its suppored to protect you against "flu A" and you get "flu B" every year? YOU ARE STILL GETTING SICK!!! I just don't get it and don't have any answers. All I know that is for me and my family, we will continue to do what is working for us...which is NO SHOTS AT ALL. JMO. Good luck!!!

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answers from Washington DC on

i'm sure they are. the real flu (in all its many flavors) is pretty vicious. i've had it about 3 times total, and each time it was unbelievably miserable. far worse than the garden variety 'flu' (sore throat and muscle aches) that accompanies the cold season every year.
but it's very hard to determine what's actually a pandemic and what's media hysteria. i can't remember any winter since the internet got popular that HASN'T been hyped as omg teh worzt flu see-zun EVAH!
most people who are healthy and take reasonable precautions will fight off the flu. a few won't.
some of those who die will be unvaccinated. some will have had the latest shot.
i'll be interested to see the real unbiased statistics (optimist that i am) in a couple of decades that tell us how vaccines actually stack up.

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answers from San Francisco on

Yes. I have two people who are very close to me who got the flu and were hospitalized and both almost died. We still don't know if one is going to pull through. It is the WORST I have seen in years. I have taken every precaution I can---wear a mask, frequent hand-washing, wear gloves when dealing with people etc.

I don't know of any children who have died because of this.

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answers from Madison on

My dad just told me this weekend that a 14-year-old girl where he lives in MN got the flu, went to the hospital, and died. As far as I know, she did get the flu shot. The hospital was unable to get her stabilized. I don't know any other details.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

A friend of mine is now raising her grandchildren because her son died from the flu. He ran pretty much every day, worked full time, was over all a healthy person who was hardly every sigk. He just got the flu then died a few days later in the hospital. He got medical treatment, got worse, was admitted to the hospital, then died a day or two later.

The mom was not in the kids lives so she's adopting these grand kids, one is a baby. She's in her 60's too. The flu is killing people of all walks of life.

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answers from Portland on

After reading the previous posts, I agree that formerly healthy people have died of the flu. Tho I don't agree with her conclusion that getting the flu shot is not necessary I do agree with her statistics. It's unlikely that many of us will get the flu and so in that regards it's not so scary. But if you're the one that gets the flu it is very serious and can be scary.

The moral of the story is to get medical attention early on so that you'll have the best chance of surviving without serious consequences.

For me, I say it's important to get the flu shot because that makes one even less likely to catch the flu.

With or without the shot, statistically speaking, very few people get the flu. It's just that the consequences of catching the flu are more serious than catching a cold or the stomach flu.

I'm continually surprised at the number of people I know who are hospitalized for dehydration. It's as if they don't pay attention to their fluid intake and then wait until it's really serious before seeking attention. If one is not able to pee and is not drinking, see the doctor before needing IV fluid replacement. My soap box.

Perhaps I've just not been sick enough to not notice such things. I can see how one would not notice if they have the serious flu as it's being described. OK. Those with the real flu,have an excuse

Next question: The "Real" Flu