Immune system ‘storm’ causes flu deaths in healthy people

Regional News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It often puzzles people how healthy children and adults can die from the flu. One of the reasons is what medical experts call a “storm” of the immune system.

There have been more 32,000 lab-confirmed flu cases and 24 flu-associated deaths in Pennsylvania so far this year.

“Typically, flu season is just sort of ramping up when we get to January through February, but we’ve already seen a high number of cases,” Health Department press secretary Nate Wardle said.

That includes cases among children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 53 pediatric deaths from flu last season. Eighty percent of those children weren’t vaccinated but were otherwise healthy.

Lancaster General published an article that states a reason for that could be the healthier the person, the stronger their immune system typically is.

Doctors say because the flu moves fast, a robust immune system can actually go into overdrive, causing significant tissue damage and life-threatening complications like pneumonia, leaky blood vessels, and meningitis.

Health experts say the way to keep your family safe is the flu shot.

“This year, we’ve seen both Influenza B and Influenza A circulating,” said Wardle. “Influenza B hasn’t been the main strain of the flu in nearly 30 years, but it is the mainstream this year.”

So far, about three out of four cases in Pennsylvania have been Influenza B cases. Influenza A cases continue to rise, too.

“A lot of people think they have a strong immune system, that they take steps to keep themselves healthy,” said Wardle. “We want everybody to get the flu vaccine. It’s the best way to protect yourself but also the best way to protect those people who are vulnerable.”

It’s not too late to get your flu shot. Health officials say even if you’ve already had one strain of the flu, you can still be infected with another.

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