The flu this year is absolutely awful, and it’s reached near-epidemic status in California. Since October, 42 people have died from the flu, all of them under the age of 65. The actual death count is likely much higher, as state officials don’t collect flu death data from people over 65. The latest victim was a 40-year old mother of 3 from San Jose. Katie Oxley Thomas went from a vibrant, healthy woman to deathly ill in a matter of hours. She died last week, a mere 15 hours after being admitted to the hospital.
Katie Oxley Thomas was, by all accounts, a very healthy person. She was a marathon runner, practiced yoga regularly, and was a healthy eater. Which makes her death from the flu so hard for her family and friends to process.
Katie’s father and stepmother are shocked by how quickly their daughter succumbed to the virus. “It was very shocking for us. We just thought she was going to leave the hospital in a couple of days and come home,” said Oxley Thomas’ stepmother Adrienne Oxley.
Just days after being diagnosed, Katie’s conditioned worsened. She went to the emergency room at Good Samaritan Hospital in Santa Clara County. She continued to deteriorate, and was admitted to the ICU. Katie was placed on life support, and the next day, she was gone.
Doctors believe the flu led to pneumonia, which led to septic shock. Her condition declined so rapidly that her parents rushed to bring her children to the hospital in her final moments. But they arrived minutes after she passed. Says Adrienne, “She knew we were there. We were telling her we love her that she could fight this and she could just get through this, come home. But she couldn’t fight it. She just couldn’t fight it.”
Officials are warning that the flu season is far from over. It’s already the most widespread outbreak since public health officials began keeping records more than 12 years ago. Flu season started earlier this year, but typically doesn’t peak until February.
While there is no surefire way to keep from getting the flu, officials say that the flu shot is still your best bet. This year’s batch has about a 30% success rate, which is lower than previous years. But even if you get the flu after getting the vaccine, the illness will likely be shorter and much less severe. It’s especially important for children and seniors to get the vaccine, as they’re the most vulnerable.