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From Flu to Septic Shock: When a Common Virus Turns Deadly

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A 21-year-old aspiring fitness trainer died from septic shock caused by influenza. People today may still believe that influenza is not a serious disease. Influenza is a highly contagious infection with the potential to become life-threatening. The virus that causes the disease can even infect healthy people with an average recovery time of about two weeks. 

Kyler Baughman, 21, was an aspiring personal trainer who filled his Facebook page with photos of his favorite hobbies, such as riding motorbikes and weightlifting. However, the young man was feeling unwell during the holidays. 

"I think he thought, 'I just got the flu; I’ll be all right,'" told Kyler's mother, Beverly Baughman to WPXI. 

Kyler had gone home to spend the holidays with the family and was already suffering from a snotty nose. He spent their 23rd family Christmas get-together sick and went back to work the day after the family event. Unfortunately, he could not make it through the day. His fiancee, Olivia Marcanio, told the station that Kyler just laid down, and had been coughing and experiencing chest pain. 

Kyler was brought to a nearby hospital in Pennsylvania and was later flown to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He died on December 28 from organ failure due to septic shock caused by influenza. 



Influenza is an infection caused by a virus of the same name, characterized by a runny nose, a sore throat, coughing, high-grade fever, headache, weakness, and muscle pain. The symptoms usually begin to manifest two days after exposure to the virus. There are three types of influenza that infect humans – type A, type B, type C, and type D. The virus is commonly spread through coughing or sneezing but may be transmitted in other ways as well: 

- People can spread it to others within a distance of six feet. 

- Aside from coughing and sneezing, it can also be spread through talking. 

- The virus can also spread through touching an object or a surface contaminated by the virus and then touching their mouth or nose. 

According to the data reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, about 650,000 people die every year due to respiratory diseases associated with influenza, significantly higher than the 250,000 to 500,000 records. At least six percent of deaths in the United States were due to complications from influenza and pneumonia, reported by CDC. 

"These figures indicate the high burden of influenza and its substantial social and economic cost to the world. They highlight the importance of influenza prevention for seasonal epidemics, as well as preparedness for pandemics," said Peter Salama, the executive director of the Health Emergencies Programme at WHO. 



Both influenza A and B cause the seasonal epidemics of influenza during the winter season in the US. Influenza C usually cause mild respiratory problems while type D affects cattle and is currently not known to cause human infection. The peak season of influenza infection is during December, January, February, and March when the temperature is favorable for the virus. Moreover, the cold temperature also makes the lungs vulnerable to respiratory infections. According to the American Lung Association, cold, dry air irritates the lungs that trigger an asthma attack and makes it vulnerable to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or bronchitis. People who are exposed to cold, dry air may experience coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. 

"It now seems that grandma was right, after all, that getting a chill can predispose a person to respiratory infection including pneumonia. As she would have recommended, dress warmly, keep your feet dry and your head covered," said Dr. Norman H. Edelman, the senior scientific advisor at the American Lung Association. 



Septic shock or sepsis is a severe complication of a viral infection. It is a life-threatening condition in which the body's reaction to the infection causes injury to tissues and organs. Influenza infection can trigger the immune system to produce certain chemicals. These chemicals normally counter a pathogenic attack but it can also trigger an inflammatory response to the entire body. Inflammation of multiple parts of the body can lead to organ damage and multiple organ failures. A severe case of sepsis includes the following symptoms: 

- Breathing difficulty 

- Decrease in platelet count 

- Elevated heart rate 

- Decrease in urination 

- Rise in blood sugar 

- Edema or swelling 

Untreated influenza can lead to other health complications, such as ear and sinus infection, which are moderate complications. Severe complications of the disease affect vital organs, including the lungs: 

- Pneumonia: An infection of the lungs that causes the air sacs to become inflamed. Inflamed air sacs are usually filled with fluid or pus that makes breathing more difficult. 

- Myocarditis: The inflammation of the heart muscle or myocardium that causes abnormal heart rhythms from the reduced pumping capacity of the heart. 

- Encephalitis: An acute swelling of the brain as a result of an infection or autoimmune disease. The swelling can cause flu-like symptoms, high fever, and headaches. 

There is no cure for influenza and treatment options are used to combat the symptoms. Clinicians may opt for antivirals but the best method to avoid catching the infection is through vaccinations and the good practice of proper handwashing. 

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