How The Flu Can Kill

While the iconic musician Prince has died at 57, seemingly of complications from the flu, questions will undoubtedly come about how it is possible anyone could die of a disease so relatively innocuous in 2016. After all, there are so many who inoculate themselves during cold and flu season. How is it possible that someone could die of the flu?

Some believe that receiving the flu vaccine can be what causes you to become sick with the flu. According to, the flu vaccine is packed with a dead form of the virus and, as such, cannot cause you harm. That said, there are those who continue to believe that they caught the flu as a result of having the flu vaccine.

Professor Robert Booy of the University of Sydney’s infectious disease department said, “The vaccine might give you some side effects or symptoms and these can include a fever, a headache and muscle aches. But that’s not the flu. Those are just some side effects that usually last one or two days.”

In 2012, teen Austin Booth made headlines, but it was not because of his star moves on the basketball court. The 17-year-old died of the flu. His mother Regina told NBC News that her son had not been feeling great in the lead up to his eventual death, but had been well enough, he felt, to play in a varsity basketball game and attend school the following day. It wasn’t until the boy began to cough up blood that his mother took him to the emergency room, and within a matter of days, he was gone.

His mother said that she wishes now that she had gotten her son the flu shot; perhaps then he could have been strong enough to withstand the onslaught of both influenza B and MRSA. It was the combination of the two diseases that cut short the life of a young man who had incredible potential.

In the case of the musician Prince, the singer had been battling the flu for what was several weeks, having been treated at a hospital on April 15 for three hours prior to being sent home, according to the Daily Mail.

Science Based Medicine reports that people are sometimes reluctant to get the flu shot because of the unpredictable effectiveness of the vaccine from year to year. There are three different types of the flu: influenza A, which can infect animals, is often carried by birds, and changes frequently; influenza B, which only infects humans; and influenza C, which is a milder form of the virus altogether, according to WebMD. There are still some 3,000 to 49,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations per year from the flu.

The vaccine is comprised of three strains of the flu: two different influenza A strains (H3N2 and H1N1 respectively) and an influenza B. The virus is dead when it is injected as a vaccine, but there is enough of the virus in that injection to prompt your body to make antibodies, thereby making you a less likely target during cold and flu season.

Like many other parents, Booth believed that her son was healthy enough to fight off the flu, and she also believed that getting the vaccine would contribute to the chances of her son becoming ill.

“I was one of those people who didn’t think they needed it,” Booth said. “I was one of those people who thought if you get the shot, you are going to get sick.”

There are also other factors at play. Generally, people do not want to spend any more of their time than they have to in a doctor’s office waiting for a shot, and a lack of motivation in general also contribute to the reasons why people don’t really want to get the flu vaccine.

It is unbelievably tragic that an iconic musician such as Prince would die from something that has generally not been considered a significant health risk since the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, but the bottom line is that the flu can still kill.

[Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images]