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Flu Strain 'A' Suspected In Death Of 3 Family Members. What Is It?


First Posted: 03/ 7/2012 9:13 am Updated: 03/ 7/2012 9:18 am

Medical investigators donned hazmat suits to investigate the mysterious death of an 81-year-old woman in Lusby, Maryland this week. And while they have not confirmed that "Influenza A" killed the woman, along with two of her children, they do say it was a contributing factor.

81-year-old Lou Ruth Blake presented symptoms at her home beginning on or about February 23, 2012, WUSA9 reports. She was cared for by three of her children, a son and two daughters, who also developed upper respiratory symptoms, and were said to have been coughing up blood and exhibiting signs of a staph bacterial infection when they were hospitalized five days later, according to the Washington Post.

The elderly woman, a 58-year-old son and a 56-year-old daughter subsequently died, officials from the Calvert County Department of Health said, and a third family member and caregiver remains critically ill at the Washington Hospital Center.

Tests confirmed that the siblings who died had a strain of flu virus known as influenza A, Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer at the hospital center, told the Washington Post.

What Is Influenza A?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are three types of seasonal influenza -- A, B and C. Type A viruses are further typed into subtypes according to different kinds and combinations of virus surface proteins. Among many subtypes of influenza A viruses, influenza A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) subtypes are currently circulating among humans, both of which are included in each year's flu vaccine, along with influenza type B.

Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February, though seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Orlowski said there has been an increase in the number of patients with flu-like symptoms in recent weeks.

While symptoms and severity varies from person to person and from one season to the next, people who have the flu typically feel some or all of these symptoms, which tend to set in suddenly:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (though this is more common in children than adults).

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Filed by Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson  |  Report Corrections