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17-Year-Old Girl Dies From Mutated Flu Strain

by Holly Hofstead - The Oregon Herald Wednesday December 31, 2014    2:42 PM

Shannon had the flu for about a week and a severe sore throat. Her parents took her to the hospital thinking it was strep but it was not. She had not been eating or drinking anything. The next morning her sister received a call from her father saying that she stopped breathing and her heart had stopped. Paramedics revived her and she was transported to a hospital where they attempted surgery. Tragically Shannon died.

Shannon Zwanziger, 17, first fell ill in early December. Her father, Terry Zwanziger, said the family feared Shannon had more than the common flu and told parents to trust their instincts.

"It was preventable," he said. "I don't want it to happen to anyone else. Our message to parents is, "Don't be afraid to advocate for your children.' Their lives are most prized possession you have." "We left with cough syrup and nausea medication. Forty-eight hours later, Shannon died," he said. "Nothing will bring Shannon back, or make loss of her life less painful, but if this saves another child's life, we will count her death meaningful."

Mr Zwanziger said he believes a simple blood test would have revealed a lethal level of potassium and dehydration in her system that the medical examiner told him contributed to her untimely death.

US health officials say the country has hit a flu epidemic threshold as a mutated strain sweeps the nation, claiming the lives of 15 children already.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the US federal public health agency, says that the proportion of deaths reported in 122 US cities from pneumonia and influenza has surpassed the seasonal baseline and currently stands at the epidemic threshold.

The number of states reporting high flu activity has also increased from 13 to 22. The reason for the national explosion in flu numbers is this years H3N2 virus has mutated and reduced the effectiveness of the vaccine which was pre-prepared.

While vaccinations proved effective in about 55 per cent of cases last year, the CDC expects that to fall this year due to the H3N2 virus.

Three other children have died in Minnesota from what health officials are warning parents is a particularly virulent strain of seasonal flu.

Seven other children are currently being treated at the intensive care unit of the Children's Hospital in St. Paul.

Worringly, the flu has proved fatal to children with no apparent underlying health problems and statistics from the Minnesota Department of Health have revealed that in some parts of the state up to 50 percent of students have been absent in December battling the illness.

Dr. Pritish Tosh of the Mayo Clinic explained that even in healthy children, the virus can cause the body to battle itself, sending white blood cells flooding into the lungs to compensate and lead to fatal consequences.

'The virus can enter the blood stream and then the brain, creating severe respiratory symptoms including shortness of breath and a very high fever,' he said to ABC News. 'If the body's reaction to the virus is too vigorous, this can cause as much damage as the virus itself,' he said.

Photo: Shannon Zwanziger, 17, first fell ill in early December.
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