Just when you think that the world couldn't get scarier, something like this happens. New York Daily News reports that 20-year-old Alani Murrieta died from the flu approximately one day after her diagnosis. The news has come as a complete shock, as Murrieta was young, healthy and overall totally fine the weekend before she passed away.
Murrieta was a mother of two living in Phoenix, Arizona, who started to feel a little bit under the weather the Sunday after Thanksgiving, according to BuzzFeed News. The next few days moved too quickly for anyone to truly understand: By Monday, Nov. 27, Murrieta was taken to an urgent care clinic with her sister. She was diagnosed with the flu and given a prescription drug called Tamiflu, an antiviral medication that can be used to treat influenza viruses.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Murrieta's aunt Stephanie Gonzales noted that Murrieta went home without receiving an X-ray and proceeded to cough throughout the night. By Tuesday morning, Murrieta was coughing up blood and having trouble breathing.
Upon returning to the emergency room and taking an X-ray, it was found that she had pneumonia from the flu. She was immediately transferred to the ICU, which would ultimately prove that Murrieta's sickness was more severe than originally thought.
On Tuesday, Nov. 28, Alani Murrieta's heart stopped, due to a severe case of pneumonia contracted after the flu diagnosis.
As terrifying as Murrieta's case is, it's important to note that it's incredibly unusual, for two reasons. First, the 20-year-old woman had no preexisting heart or health conditions that might have made her more susceptible to a viral infection becoming deadly.
In her interview with BuzzFeed, Gonzales noted her niece's history of health with understandable confusion and grief:
She was very healthy and never got sick, she worked six days a week and her job was at a warehouse so she was very active at her job.
Secondly, it's incredibly unusual for healthy young adults to die of the flu in such a manner. While the number of flu deaths varies by year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says between 3,000 and 49,000 people die from flu-related complications every year, although that number is largely distorted toward infants, adults over 65, and pregnant women. Murrieta, a healthy 20-year-old woman, certainly wasn't in the range of people "expected" to suffer from flu complications.
The flu is a respiratory illness that affects your nose, throat, and lungs, and can lead to more severe afflictions when something like pneumonia develops as a result — but again, this is rare.
Each year, anywhere from five to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu, while only tens of thousands are hospitalized from the illness.
The best thing anyone can do is to get the flu vaccine, which traditionally works to protect you against three strains of the flu: two strains of the influenza A virus, and one strain of the influenza B virus. Although vaccines are never 100 percent guaranteed to ward off the illness, getting one prior to "flu season" (which most experts say begins in October) is your best shot at staying healthy and keeping your community healthy as well.
If you're in your 20s and have no preexisting health conditions, then the odds are very much in your favor in regards to your health during flu season. But unfortunately, odds are just that: odds. They don't apply to the individual, as Alani Murrieta's tragic case proves. That's why you should always take precautionary measures when it comes to this type of illness, and any, for that matter.
Murrieta's family is, understandably, still reeling from the grief of losing such a young mother, daughter, niece, and community member. Gonzales' final words to BuzzFeed were words of advice and love:
All I want people to know is don’t take life for granted. If you’re feeling sick, go to the doctor. Know your body and trust how you're feeling — I would've never [have] thought that when she felt sick on Sunday, that it would kill her ... She was a great mother, and just so smart and respectful — so many people loved her. She was amazing.
Murrieta's family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral costs, which can be found here.