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12-year-old Florida boy dies of flu, family says

A seemingly healthy 12-year-old boy died Tuesday from the flu, his family said.

Dylan Winnik, a seventh-grader at Okeeheelee Middle School, in West Palm Beach, Florida, had what his family thought was a cold for about two days, according to Mike Medwin, his mother’s partner

When Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies rushed to Dylan’s father’s home Tuesday afternoon, he already was dead.

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Dylan’s symptoms hadn’t seemed serious, according to Medwin. He had not gotten a flu shot this year, Medwin said.

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“Please implore other parents to not take the flu lightly whatsoever,” Medwin said.

Medwin has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover Dylan’s funeral expenses. More than $5,000 has been raised toward its $10,000 goal.

Related: Five reasons to get a flu shot this season

Dylan’s death is the first reported flu-related death this year in Palm Beach County. An autopsy will be done to determine the exact cause of his death, sheriff’s authorities said.

Statewide, nearly 3,000 people have died either from pneumonia or influenza this flu season. Across the country, at least 30 children have died from the flu this season, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report analyzing data through Jan. 13. Flu season begins in November.

Dylan Winnik, 12, died from the flu, his family told The Palm Beach Post. (Mike Medwin)

Dr. Jaimie Snarski, assistant medical director for the emergency department at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, said the hospital has been so inundated with patients that a storage area has been cleared out to take care of them.

“The hospital has been full for the last three days. There are no beds,” she said. “There is nowhere for us to put admitted patients.”

Patients waiting in the ER have been issued gauze facemasks in hope of containing the virus.

Related: Doctors urge residents not to ignore flu symptoms following Florida man’s death

The prevalent strain this flu season is type A, H3N2, and it’s no surprise it is taking its toll. Australia and New Zealand took the brunt of it with some high-profile deaths of children. In the United Kingdom, this year’s virus has been dubbed the “Aussie flu.”

“We are definitely getting more cases this year in general,” Snarski said. “For some relatively healthy people, it is hitting them a little harder, usually.”

It’s important that at the first signs of flu that medical attention is sought. Medicines, such as Tamiflu, can’t do much good after 72 hours of symptoms, Snarski said.

If that window is missed, the disease must be ridden out by staying in bed and keeping hydrated. A trip to the ER is warranted when a fever spikes to 103 or 104 degrees. Severe dehydration, a racing heart, shortness of breath and feeling dizzy are other signs that a trip to the hospital is warranted, she said.

Related: Family warns of dangers after 21-year-old dies of flu complications

Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center said most of the flu cases it is seeing are from people who did not get a flu vaccination. There are some patients who did get vaccinated and still got sick, but Snarski said at the very least a flu shot will make the disease less severe.

She also noted that it is not too late to get a vaccination.

The subject of an intense marketing blitz by retailers of late, the flu shot now is offered by Publix, CVS or Walgreens pharmacies, among others. An inoculation can also be gotten through medical professionals, such as the family doctor.

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