Dylan Winnik stayed home from school on Tuesday with . Hours later, he was gone. The 12-year-old from West Palm Beach, Florida, is the latest child to die from , and his sudden passing left both his family and community stunned.
"Don't mess around with the flu," his stepdad Mike Medwin told . "It's not going to somebody else. It can happen right in your neighborhood, right in your home. It happened to us. Lightning struck."
The seventh grader was grappling with fatigue and a runny nose, but when his parents checked his temperature, the thermometer registered around the normal 98 degrees. By the time Dylan's symptoms escalated, the emergency rescue crews were too late.
"Please implore other parents to not take the flu lightly whatsoever," Medwin told WPTV. Dylan hadn't received a flu shot this year, an important first line of defense. His family, friends, and classmates honored Dylan today by wearing orange, his favorite color. Medwin has also started a benefiting a funeral and memorial expenses as well as support services for Dylan's two brothers.
While a medical examiner is yet to release the official cause of Dylan's death, his family said they were told that "complications from a very aggressive form of the flu" had killed him.
Doctors have linked flu activity to so far this season, and Centers for Disease Control officials warn that the fierce, deadly season still hasn't peaked.
If you observe symptoms in a child like bluish skin color, difficulty breathing, or trouble waking up, seek medical help right away. Not everyone with the flu will exhibit a fever, but abrupt onset of symptoms, chest discomfort, fatigue, and headaches often signal the flu instead of a cold.
To protect your children and yourself, experts say the first and best line of defense is a flu shot. Getting more people vaccinated protects others from getting the flu, but it can also mitigate complications if you do contract the disease. A 2017 study in looking at hundreds of cases showed that immunization significantly reduces a child's risk of dying from influenza.
"Even if you get the flu, having received the flu vaccine may help you in terms of not having as serious a course," Dr. Patricia Whitley-Williams, professor and chief of the division of pediatric allergy, immunology, and infectious diseases at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, told . "It may prevent you from being hospitalized."
With flu season potentially lasting until May, it's not too late to get a flu shot. It could help save a life.