Maryland flu deaths mysterious
March 7th, 2012
07:23 PM ET

Maryland flu deaths mysterious

The Calvert County investigation into the flu deaths of 3 family members in Lusby, Maryland, found two of them–a 58 year-old brother and his 56-year-old-sister died of serious lung infections, a complication of seasonal flu.

The CDC already has confirmed the siblings died of influenza A. The strain is still unknown. Their 81-year-old mother, who was being cared for by her three children died at home Thursday of complications from the flu. The surviving sibling, a 51-year-old woman, remains in guarded condition at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., where she is responding to treatment.

Dr. David Rogers, Health Officer of Calvert County, says the investigation into the flu deaths of the three family members in Lusby, Maryland, is continuing.  Rogers told CNN while unusual, these were isolated cases and the community at large should not be overly concerned or alarmed.

"This is extremely rare. I think what happened here is that we had an elderly woman who got flu, then she suffered a complication of flu, a severe bacterial pneumonia. Three kids came to provide bedside care and came in close contact. They may not only have caught flu from her but the serious lung infection that she had." Rogers said. "This is a very isolated situation where you have four people in a home, in close contact. This happens not infrequently in elderly people."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 90% of seasonal flu related deaths and more than 60% of flu related hospitalizations in the United States each year are in people 65 or older.

The sister of the deceased 81-year old woman is now also being treated for flu like symptoms at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Dr. Janis Orlowski, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, says the woman was admitted last night and is in fair condition.

"We don't yet know what this is about," Orlowski said. "She has a fever and a cough. They were all together at a funeral last week. Individuals could easily have caught the flu–a large gathering of people, hugging, consoling, possibly sharing a meal."

"If the individuals had the flu at that time it is quite likely that others are showing signs of the flu," says Orlowski. 'If I was in that family and felt ill, I would seek medical attention early."

Orlowski  also treated the brother, who passed away at the hospital Monday night.

She says the bacterial infection they had was a staphylococcal (staph) infection, which she calls a super infection. Cultures on the surviving sister are not back yet. The source of the staph is still unknown, but Orlowski says the bacteria is naturally on the body. On  skin, in the nose. Most people, she says, don't catch it from someone else.

"The question is did the mother have the staph where it went to the hands of the children and they got infected or did each end up becoming super infected with their own bacteria and we don't know the answer to that. It's likely we will never know."

And rare enough that they looked for other sources.

"We did look for poison, carbon monoxide in the house, did they all ingest something?" Orlowski asks. "It's astonishingly rare, such that we are all looking that other explanations."

Orlowski says over the last several days the hospital emergency room filled with nearly 400 patients. Most had chronic illnesses like heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and liver disease made worse by a bout of flu.

"It's flu season in the mid-Atlantic area so I urge the public to get vaccinated if you have not been, wash your hands, and if you are ill, don't go to school or work. We don't want you to spread the illness."

soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. Valentijn

    So is it an unknown flu strain, flu complications, or a staph infection? This article says all three at different points, and while they aren't exclusive issues, they can't all be the primary factor causing death.

    If we go with the CDC version, then the Calvert County Health Officer is talking out of his rectum about it being staph related. And how is it not a cause for concern when three out of the four people known to have the same flu die from it? That's a very high mortality rate, even when you take into account that one was ill and very old.

    March 8, 2012 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • k

      It says in the article that there was a staph infection also.

      March 8, 2012 at 13:43 | Report abuse |
  2. Jay

    " ...remains in guarded condition..."? Why? Is she suffering from In-Hospital Drug Induced Delirium? Are they trying to keep Fox NEWS from accosting her? The so-called terrorists from harvesting flu strains for viral weapons development?

    March 8, 2012 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Randy

      Just in case you're for real, let me enlighten you that 'guarded condition' has nothing to do with security or restrictions. It just means they're in better than serious or critical condition, but not in stable condition, so they're being watched closely to make sure they don't get worse.

      March 9, 2012 at 07:48 | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    Makes me realize how trivial my problems really are.

    March 8, 2012 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bspurloc

      which part? that people died or that they discovered a strain that easily spread to them, then they had a funeral to spread to all those peeps and seemingly the important part here is one is still alive, not that 10+ new carriers were introduced

      March 8, 2012 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
  4. Linda

    We have had a VERY mild winter in Southern MD, and the area is surrounded by woods and fields. I wouldn't be surprised if the cause was black mold, Hunta virus (remember the 4 corners outbreak?), or some strain of avian flu. My mother died from MRSA – it kills quick and is in the blood – not the lungs.
    I DO NOT get flu shots! I keep my immune system healthy with diet, exercise and supplements (which the FDA wants to 'regulate')- . Zinc, C, A, D, E, B complex. My co workers all got flu shots – and consequently got sick. All I've had in the last 2 years are sinus issues, probably due allergies and to the heater drying the house out.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bspurloc

      how does, diet exercise and supplement aid the body to have antibodies to protect it against unknowns?
      The Human bodies defenses require it to come into contact with something to know how to fight it, when u turn into a germaphobe neat freak u deny the body that requirement and do more harm than good. pure facts.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:05 | Report abuse |
    • J.C.

      Hantavirus, not Hunta virus. Spread via rodent droppings and urine.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
    • ADiff

      I wouldn't be at all surprised at what might be speculated....

      March 8, 2012 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • k

      Hanta virus

      March 8, 2012 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
    • karissa

      Conversely, I GET AN INFLUENZA VACCINATION every year and have since 2008 and I've never been "sick." I also eat well and exercise regularly; a vaccination is a supplement to already healthy behaviors – which is why MOST of America needs their vaccinations because they are not living healthy lives. And exactly what type of "sickness" did your co-workers come down with? You're attacking a valid vaccine for no reason; the article isn't about the influenza vaccine – it's about an isolated medical event in one family.

      March 8, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      I don't get the flu shot either, but it's not because I haven't wanted one. I've been turned away too many times because they wanted to make sure other people got it first or because there just wasn't enough vaccine. I find that very annoying, especially when I go home and see on tv that everyone should go out and get the shot. So I do what Linda does – I take supplements, I exercise, I get enough sleep, and I try to relieve stress through Yoga and other things. And yes, I've gotten the flu, but it's always been mild and I have the sense to stay home when I'm sick. Way too many people go about their business anyway when they're sick and they spread it around and they end up sicker. I avoid all OTC flu/cold medications too – they don't do anything except disrupt your sleep and mask your symptoms so you think you're better when you're not. And later, after I've recovered from the flu, I have natural antibodies which will help me later in life. They can keep their flu shots for those people they've told me need them more than I do.

      March 9, 2012 at 06:22 | Report abuse |
    • Randy

      Nothing wrong with a good regimine to keep your immune system healthy and able to fight infections that might come along. Personally, I go for the flu shot as well because it can't hurt to have a few antibodies already in my system if the flu virus does come my way. Seems to work, haven't had the flu in years, even when my wife got it after NOT getting a flu shot.

      March 9, 2012 at 07:53 | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      I'm with you, I will NEVER get the flu or Pneumonia shot, been health with vitamins supplements, exercise, good foods choices. I used to get sick all the time, until I changed to a healthy lifestyle 5 years ago. Everyone (family, friends and co workers) are always sick, not me.

      July 2, 2017 at 13:46 | Report abuse |
  5. bspurloc

    so the idea is they contacted it from her somehow, there was a FUNERAL for her but no urgency to contact all those members?
    so if this really is contagious, it is too late......

    March 8, 2012 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. The_Mick

    Notice that they didn't really die from the flu: "we had an elderly woman who got flu, then she suffered a complication of flu, a severe bacterial pneumonia. Three kids came to provide bedside care and came in close contact." The vast majority of flu deaths are really pneumonia deaths from people made weak by the flu. I think it's more important to get the bacterial pneumonia vaccination than the flu vaccination – I make sure I'm always up to date with both. The bacterial pneumonia vaccination is only needed once every five years and twice in your life – and it protects against 100% of the bacteria associated with pneumonia deaths.

    March 8, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rpmi1640

      The bacterial pneumonia vaccine is a Pneumococcal vaccine. While it is very helpful against pneumonia from Pneumococcus, it provides no protection from other bacteria such as Staphylococcus – which accounts for many influenza related deaths. This woman had a staph pneumonia. There is no staph vaccine. Ia gree that it's important to get the influneza vaccine and Pneumococcal vaccine.

      March 8, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • Joan

      Mick, it does not cover 100% of bacterial infections that can lead to pneumonia. NOT even close to 100%. In fact, it used ot cover only 9. Then, a superbug ensued where they saw an increase in antibiotic resistant infections of a different variety. They saw a drop in the 9, but an increase in others. So, the pharm companies decided to make a bigger vaccine expanding to 13 possible bacterial starins. Unfortunately, there are many, many, more and it could very well result in an even bigger superbug than what we saw before. It is hard to decide what is really worth getting vaccinated for these days.

      March 8, 2012 at 20:15 | Report abuse |
    • frank

      Actually there is a staph vacciene. It does not prevent infection but reduces infectaion rates and complications. It cuts your risk of infection by 50% and drops the complication rate by the same amount should you still get infected. So maybe you should learn what you are talking about before you spout lies and misinformation on the internet.

      March 9, 2012 at 07:56 | Report abuse |
  7. joe

    i dont know what this is but it aint no flu, half my family has this inclusing me my dad was coughing so hard last night he went to the hospital and they said he almost cracked a rib. i just watched contagion the other day so its creeping me out........

    March 8, 2012 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      It's not unusual to crack a rib coughing. Most people hunch over when they cough, and the internal pressure is forced into one or two areas which can hurt the ribs in those two areas. Don't hunch over or curl up when you cough, make sure your torso is upright. Sit up straight or stand up straight (but make sure you're covering your cough.) Cracked ribs really hurt and they take a long time to heal. Always wash your hands after coughing into them.

      March 9, 2012 at 06:26 | Report abuse |
    • Janet

      it could be pertussis or whooping cough – people lose their immunity around the early teen years I believe. Adults are now being offered vaccine against this. It is different in adults from infants or small children but still very debilitating. It can kill infants.

      July 2, 2017 at 02:32 | Report abuse |
  8. willie

    The flue like illness I am battling is my worst in 25 years. I enjoy excellent health and have not have a cold for years, I've got the flu shot, but it did not protect me. My usually healthy grandson ended up with pneumonia after he battled whatever this is and II caught it from him. I had the typical flu symptoms, headache, soar throat, joint ache, nausea, chills. I have been blowing my nose for 4 days with hardly any letup. I feel I am drowning in my phlegm. I know if I do not stay on top of this, I will end up with pneumonia. This must be a new strain of flu going around. Some people are so wiped out that they are too weak to get out of bed. I am surprised that this has not been in the news.

    March 8, 2012 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Carol

    My husband and I had what we thought was a bad cold a few yrs. ago, and when we felt a fever starting we went to the doctors, we both had pneumonia. It was hard to believe because I didn't feel that bad, so if you've had symptoms as you say Willie, go to a doctor. After we retired we decided to get the flu shots every yr. and the pneumonia one, I think they said every ten yrs. My husband had one bout with a flu that wasn't covered in our shot one yr. We had to go to emergency room for that one. I had the flue every yr. at least once, but since the vaccine I haven't.

    March 8, 2012 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jean

    Way to write a scary, somewhat misleading headline, CNN. One really has to dig in the article to realize that these people actually died from staph-induced pneumonia, as a complication of the flu. Bacterial pneumonia can kill very quickly, on its own or associated with some other disease.

    March 8, 2012 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. cpc65

    We're all going to die! Achoo!

    March 8, 2012 at 23:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. P

    I was looking for an update on the story since I live in Clavert Co & found this... another person with symptms & it seems to like its being blown off – Its not very far from Lusby at all –

    March 9, 2012 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. larry5

    Are these people the Keystone Cops of medical care?

    March 9, 2012 at 04:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Claire

    Thanks for that link, P. I have to be in that area this weekend, and I'm one of those who has had pneumonia more than my share in recent years, and I've started getting flu shots every year now. So far, no flu or pneumonia for 3 years and counting. I'll at least be careful to do plenty of face and hand washing.

    March 9, 2012 at 04:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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  17. NurseBella

    By the way, to all of my fellow nursing friends out there, I was recently told about a new program with Mollen Immunizations, where nurses can become independent contractors and work on commission by setting up their own flu shot business. The company is based out of Arizona, but that it's available nationwide because most of it is set up online and over the phone with one their Community Care Nurse Network recruiters. Their number is 480-214-1030. Just thought I'd pass the info along incase anyone is interested! 🙂 Here's a link to the job posting:


    April 13, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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      Some RNs have set up their own travel vaccine clinics under supervision of a physician.

      July 2, 2017 at 02:34 | Report abuse |
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