CORAL SPRINGS, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida community is mourning the loss of a 12-year-old boy, two days after, his family said, he died due to complications from the flu virus.
As officials investigate to verify what caused the death of 12-year-old Dylan Winnik, medical professionals work to inform the public about flu-like symptoms that could become fatal.
Doctors do not believe that the flu season is even at its peak. As of Thursday, about 30 children across the United States have died after having the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Students at Okeeheelee Middle School in West Palm Beach described the moment they found out Winnik died.
“Everybody was crying, but it was like not normal at all,” said Anthony Mantle, a fellow seventh-grader.
Mantle said Winnik always had a smile on his face. “Every single time in first period, he would always make everybody laugh,” he said. “You would never see him sad or anything.”
“He cares about people, and I’m sorry about what happened to him that day,” said another classmate.
Loved ones said Winnik, a Coral Springs resident, died Tuesday afternoon. “Shocking. You get a call that he’s passed. How the hell does that happen?” said Mike Medwin, family friend. “He has two brothers as well — one older, one younger — and the family is focused on them.”
That is the big question from Dylan’s family, as investigators work to determine the exact cause of death.
Relatives described an otherwise healthy, athletic boy who was dealing with what they thought was a cold.
On Monday, the 12-year-old complained of a fever and body aches. He died hours later.
Winnik was not in Coral Springs with his mother and her boyfriend at the time. He was at the West Palm Beach home of his father, Sergio Winnik.
Winnik said he left his son at home to attend an event and got worried when he called to check up on his son.
“I called him, but he wouldn’t answer the phone,” he said through a translator. “My neighbor knew I had stepped out. I called him, and I told him that my son wasn’t answering the phone.”
The concerned father said his neighbor then went to check on the boy. “He was looking and looking for him and realized he was in the bathroom. Then, I don’t know, he just died right there,” he said.
The family said the 12-year-old had not received the flu shot, but was prescribed Tamiflu. Medical examiners, they said, told them that it was an aggressive form of the flu.
“This year’s strain, for whatever reason, happens to be a little bit more aggressive,” said Dr. Edna Tello with Personalized Pediatrics. “Kind of going from zero to 60 in a very short period of time, meaning that they’re well one day, and then very rapidly they develop fever, chills, body aches, cough, and then when I do the tests, lo and behold, it comes back positive.”
Tello makes house calls. On Thursday, her patient was Preston, whose father tested positive for the flu. Preston was up all night with a fever and cough. Preston and family were prescribed Tamiflu to treat and prevent influenza.
Tello said parents should not wait to call a doctor if their child experiences flu symptoms. “I also advise that even if you have a very healthy child, to the first sign of ‘Mommy, I have a headache,’ ‘I have chills or body aches’ and they register a temperature, then you seek medical help,” Tello said.
Those closest to Dylan hope other parents can learn from what happened to him.
“Go see a doctor and get checked out, and take as many precautions as you can,” said Medwin.
Although Dylan did not get the flu shot, Tello said that she’s seeing more people with strains A, which was not part of this year’s vaccine.
“This new strain, the A H3N2, is very dangerous,” said Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “It is impacting, infecting young people, young kids, healthy people, strong people.”
Carvalho said all parents will be getting a robo-call, Thursday, to be on the lookout for symptoms. “I’m concerned, everybody across the community should be concerned,” he said.
His family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the boy’s funeral expenses.
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