JJ was a healthy two-year-old whose life was taken by flu in less than 24 hours.
At two years old, JJ was a healthy, sweet, kind, and inquisitive little boy who loved gymnastics, dancing, animals, and music. On February 2, 2020, JJ was his usual energetic self until about mid-morning when he fell asleep quite early for his nap. He was still cheerful and had a good appetite, but became increasingly tired throughout the afternoon. He had a temperature of 101.5 at 4:30pm, which his parents successfully treated with acetaminophen. JJ seemed to perk back up after his temperature returned to normal and he ate a huge dinner. All indications were that he was just suffering from a minor viral illness, one that he likely had many times before. As such, JJ’s parents were not especially concerned.
Later that evening, JJ fell asleep early in his mother, Maurine’s, arms as they snuggled and watched a movie. JJ went to bed a little earlier than normal and his parents continued to watch and listen to him on their baby monitor. At around midnight, Maurine went into JJ’s room to check on him again and found him unresponsive in his crib. They immediately called 911 and JJ was transported to the local emergency room. Despite life-saving efforts from the paramedics and doctors, they were unable to revive JJ. It was determined postmortem that JJ tested positive for influenza A, H1N1.
An autopsy revealed that JJ had asymptomatic and undiagnosed asthma. Unfortunately, children with asthma are much more likely to be infected with and die from flu than children without asthma. Although JJ had received an annual flu vaccine earlier in the season, flu vaccination rates in the U.S. are below target thresholds for both children and adults. Flu vaccination is important to protect people like JJ who are unknowingly vulnerable to flu complications and death. JJ’s parents are pro-vaccine advocates with strong science backgrounds. They realize that to keep communities safe from infectious diseases like flu, it requires the vast majority of the population to be vaccinated. It is the hope of JJ’s parents that by sharing his story they can help educate others about the importance of vaccination and the potential dangers of flu, particularly how quickly flu can kill, even in the absence of serious respiratory symptoms.
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