Mission: To save lives and reduce hospitalizations by protecting children, families, and communities against influenza.
Family Stories

The Zenus Family

FFF Advocate:
Danielle Zenus (mother)
Place of Residence:
Milford, MA
Date of Death:
January 31, 2019
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Aaron Zenus

Aaron was a healthy 12-year-old who died from flu only 72 hours after his first symptoms appeared.

Aaron’s Flu Illness
Aaron Zenus was a 12-year-old with a big heart. During his short life, Aaron was committed to spreading joy and compassion.
He quit his own basketball team to instead volunteer and coach Special Olympics athletes with his dad.

On January 27, 2019, Aaron started to feel sick with a slight headache and fever of 100. His parents kept him home from school on Monday and his doctor recommended over the phone for him to stay hydrated. When he still wasn’t feeling better on Tuesday, his parents took him to urgent care. At the urgent care, he tested positive for influenza. A chest x-ray showed that he did not have pneumonia.

He continued to stay home from school and his parents were diligent about making sure he stayed hydrated and rested. Only 72 hours from the time the fever started, Aaron became extremely lethargic, delirious, and was saying random words that didn’t make sense.

When Flu Became an Emergency
His concerned parents took him to their local emergency room. However, it was busy because it was peak flu season and there had been bad weather conditions. They waited for over an hour until he was rushed back to the treatment room when he started to have a seizure in the waiting area.

After he was rushed to the treatment area, tests showed that Aaron had double pneumonia, MRSA, and septic shock caused by the flu. The medical staff had planned to fly him to Boston Children’s Hospital, but a helicopter could not fly in the stormy weather conditions. Instead, they sent an ambulance.

While awaiting the ambulance to take him to Boston Children’s hospital, Aaron’s condition worsened. His heart stopped beating and the staff performed CPR. Unfortunately, the flu had caused too much damage and he could not be revived. He passed away on January 31st.

Although Aaron had received a flu vaccine for the 2018-2019 flu season, the type of influenza that he was infected with, type B, was not adequately matched to the vaccine. Flu vaccines are made about six months before flu season starts and are based on a prediction of which types of flu are most likely to spread.

Honoring Aaron
The Zenus Family created a foundation in his honor. Based on his work with the Special Olympics, the foundation encourages and supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families, as they seek to achieve independence, community integration, social growth, and an enhanced quality of life.

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