Reese was a 16-year-old who died suddenly from the flu.
Terese “Reese” Termulo was a healthy, active, 16-year-old honors student and dancer. She was in the top 10% of her 11th-grade class and was on track to be an officer on her school’s drill team. Reese had a bright future ahead of her and was looking to attend Texas A&M or Notre Dame for college.
On January 9, 2020, Reese’s parents received a call from her school that she was feeling sick. Her father, a pediatrician, brought her to his office where she tested positive for influenza B – a strain that Dr. Termulo had seen among many of his other patients. She was given antivirals and went home to get better. She spent the evening catching up on homework, on Snapchat, and texting friends. Her father noted that she wasn’t as sick as many of his other patients who had influenza B.
The next morning, she was getting ready to go to school. Although she had no fever, her father told her it was best to stay home. He examined her and listened with a stethoscope to her heart and lungs. He concluded that she was on the mend as her lungs were clear and she was not breathing fast. There was no evidence that she had pneumonia or an increased heart rate.
The last thing he ever said to his daughter was that he thought she would get better. Dr. Termulo left for work and Reese went to shower while her mom prepared her food.
Her mom found Reese upstairs passed out and had stopped breathing. The flu virus quickly attacked her heart. She passed away in less than 24 hours of being diagnosed.
Reese had received her annual flu vaccine over the Christmas break from school in late December of 2019. However, the subtype of influenza B that infected Reese was not included in that year’s vaccine. Flu vaccines are updated annually to reflect the strains of flu that are most likely to spread, but the vaccine does not always match the strains that make people sick because the virus evolves quickly.
The Importance of Annual Flu Vaccination
Dr. Termulo and his family still urge people to get vaccinated against the flu each and every year. Although flu vaccines are not perfect, he compares them to seatbelts. While people may still die from a car crash when wearing a seatbelt, it’s still the best protection available. Although flu vaccines are not always a perfect match, flu vaccines save lives and reduce flu-related hospitalizations.
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