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Pasco woman dies from swine flu, father asks everyone to get a flu shot

7:42 PM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
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Holly Harrelson, 27, was a mom of three, who reportedly died from Swine Flu complications. Now, her father urges others to get vaccinated.


Dade City, Florida- It's early in the flu season and so far, there have been two deaths related to the swine flu in Pasco County, according to health officials. 

They are among the 36,000 people health officials say will die nationwide this year from complications due to the flu.

Pasco Health officials say a flu shot may have prevented the death of 27-year-old Holly Harrelson, a mother of three young children. She reportedly died from complications due to the Swine Flu.

Holly's father Tim Harrelson now has a plea for anyone who has not been vaccinated.

"Please don't take the risk. There are precautions out there you can take. There are no guarantees [and] it may have saved her life if Holly had that," Harrelson urges. "She may still have been here with us today... 27 years old, three kids; she's gone."

The Pasco Health Department reported a three percent increase of influenza type cases in emergency rooms last week. While health officials say that's normal for this time of year, according to the state's weekly Flu Review, Pasco is seeing a moderate level of flu cases that's higher than most counties statewide, and in the bay area.

"Overall the vaccine works," says Dori Budetti, a nurse practitioner with the Pasco Health Department. Budetti says this year's flu vaccine includes the H1N1 virus, better known as the Swine Flu. "We've already seen a decrease in flu cases this year compared to last year," says Budetti.

But when the flu hits, especially in someone who has not been vaccinated or has a weaken immune system, Budetti says it hits hard and fast.

"The flu comes on fairly sudden with a high fever, headaches, and severe coughing respiratory symptoms," she explains.

The flu vaccine helps protect one from a few strains of influenza, but not all. That's why experts say even someone who has been vaccinated needs to take precautions.

They encourage all to wash hands frequently, drink lots of water, and if you have to cough, cough into your sleeve. Also, avoid areas or contact with anyone with the flu and finally, if you have the flu or flu-like symptoms stay home.

And for anyone who says the flu shot makes them sick, Budetti says their immune system may have already been compromised before being vaccinated. 

"What are the underlying health conditions? How good is your immune system? How well is your reaction to the vaccine?"

Health experts say it's not too late to get your flu shot. Florida's is entering the peak of its flu season and since it takes two weeks for the flu shot to take effect health officials say you have plenty of time to receive the protection you need.

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