When does the flu virus turn deadly? - KMSP-TV

When does the flu virus turn deadly?

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(WJBK) -

The flu is a virus that invades the respiratory system. Symptoms include a cough, fever, and muscle aches and usually come on abruptly.

Tuesday the Oakland County Health Department said three people recently died after contracting the flu - all aged in their 20s. The flu does take the life of young people every year, but most of the time those who get the flu recover.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Matthew Sims from Beaumont Hospital explains how the flu can turn deadly.

"[The virus] gets into the lungs. It invades the cells in the lungs and it causes a big inflammatory response. When you have that inflammation the cells can leak fluid; you basically drown in your own fluids. On top of that, because it's there, it's damaging your lungs, it makes you more at risk for developing other infections, bacterial pneumonia, things like that. And when you get what we call a super-infection, an infection on top of an infection, it can be very deadly," he says.  

The three young adults who died contracted the H1N1 strain of the flu. Dr. Sims says younger people are more vulnerable to the H1N1 strain because the strain is very similar to one that circulated years ago, so older adults have already been exposed to similar viruses.

"We've seen a lot of younger people come in, need to be in the ICU, on respirators, getting direct oxygenation of their blood in order to survive. And we've had some very bad cases," he says.

Beaumont Hospital also has a 24-hour flu hotline. The number is (888) 375-4161.

Online: www.flu.gov

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