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When the flu turns deadly: Symptoms to look for to catch it quickly

There have been several cases of young people dying from the flu after it escalated into septic shock

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - It's a trend that's on the rise across the country -- the flu escalating into septic shock, which is a widespread infection causing organ failure and dangerously low blood pressure. We've even seen some cases close to home.

This flu season is one of the worst in years but what's even more terrifying is the effect it's had on people who are young and healthy. Recently, there have been several cases of young people dying from the flu after it escalated into septic shock.

Medical experts say it's difficult to predict and can happen to anyone.

"Most diseases, we worry about the really young and the really old but it can affect anyone and it can hit them hard at any time," Dr. Alton Temple said.

According to the Sepsis Alliance, sepsis is often the body's deadly response to infection.

"When someone has influenza, it's very difficult to know when someone might have septic shock," Dr. James Kravec said. "Healthy people have it but also if you have a very poor health status to begin with, you're even more likely to have that."

The flu is hitting so hard, that it's sparking fear in people more than it has in the past.

"It's very scary. You see healthy kids that are usually more active out there and sick -- not just for a day or two, but for weeks," said Andrea Quarles, of Austintown.

People often mistake the flu with a stomach bug, but the Sepsis Alliance says the flu has nothing to do with the gastrointestinal system.

Influenza is a respiratory virus with symptoms such as fever and chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headache, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea, though you might not experience all of these symptoms.

The difference between the common cold and the flu is that while a cold comes on gradually, the flu comes on very quickly, according to the Sepsis Alliance.

If you think you have the flu, the best thing to do is get plenty of rest, drink lots of clear fluids to avoid dehydration and take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Watch for these sepsis warning signs and if you notice them, get medical attention right away:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • High fever for more than three days
  • Dehydration
  • High heart rate

"It's something that we should definitely be aware of, but not something that should make us lose sleep overnight," Dr. Temple said. "But, definitely, we should be concerned and get our vaccines, and everyone try to stay healthy."

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