The fit and healthy 21-year-old, like so many of us, insisted he was fine, convinced he'd bounce out of it. Days later, he was dead, with doctors blaming it on septic shock caused by influenza. But how does the flu overwhelm a healthy, fit, young person?
A 21-year-old bodybuilder suddenly died from flu complications— Here's what you need to know
The young man died of "septic shock caused by influenza," an extremely rare occurrence in such a young and healthy person
According to WPXI, Baughman was a normal, highly active 21-year-old. According to his mother, Beverly Baughman, he was a fitness nut who was going to school to be a personal trainer. After celebrating Christmas with his family, Baughman returned to work the next day, but came home early because he wasn't feeling well. "He kinda just laid down and went about his day," Baughman's fiancé, Olivia Marcanio, told WPXI, "That was the day he was coughing and said his chest hurt."
Days later, Baughman's condition hadn't improved, and he was rushed to the emergency room and then airlifted to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He died less than 24 hours later.
"Organ failure due to septic shock caused by influenza,”Beverly Baughman said. "It doesn't seem real."
According to the Mayo Clinic, sepsis, the precursor to septic shock, "occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body." Essentially, our bodies release chemicals into our bloodstream when we get sick. In cases of sepsis, instead of helping, these chemicals end up hurting the body and trigger "a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems."
If not diagnosed quickly, these damaged organs will eventually fail, causing the body to go into septic shock and die, which is tragically what happened to Baughman. According to WXPI, he had not received a flu shot this year.
Baughman's case is a rare and tragic circumstance— according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, there are just over 1 million reported cases of sepsis in the United States annually, and anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of those cases result in death. The people at highest risk are the very old or those with an already-weakened immune system.
The Mayo Clinic says cases of sepsis and septic shock are on the rise in the United States. The Clinic attributes this to three main causes— the development of drug-resistant bacteria, which the Mayo Clinic attributes to a frequent "root cause" of the infections that cause sepsis, the rising number of people in the over-65 high-risk range, and an increase in the number of people who are living with weakened immune systems caused by diseases like HIV.
But Baughman didn't fall into either of the latter two groups. It's unclear why he developed sepsis so quickly, but it's important to note that it can happen to anyone. Despite this, sepsis is treatable if doctors catch it early enough. Baughman's parents are using their son's tragic death to encourage people to listen to their bodies and to not hesitate to visit the doctor if they don't feel well. "Try and know your body. Don't let things go,” Baughman's father, Todd Baughman, said. “Whenever you have a fever for multiple days, don't let it go, get it taken care of."
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