- Associated Press - Saturday, January 25, 2014

BOYCE, La. (AP) - Jawanda Wood knew something was wrong with her son.

Tyler “Twig” Wood had never let a cold stop him if there was someplace to go or something to do. But he was spending all day in bed, not even moving to respond a phone barrage of texts and calls.

He had never missed a meal, but would take only a bite or two.

A few days later, he was dead.

The infection that killed the 18-year-old from Boyce last week was confirmed through blood tests to be H1N1, the strain that caused a global health crisis in 2009. H1N1 has an increased likelihood of producing severe disease in children and young adults.

“It has definitely devastated this school and this community to lose a great kid at such a young age,” said Brandon Cedus, who coached and taught Tyler for years. “It’s just left a huge void out here.”

“To hear that mouth again, for us to be arguing about stupid stuff like money or clothes or it was time to change the oil in his truck,” his mother said. “I would have done anything. I would have traded places with him in a second.”

According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, there were 20 confirmed flu deaths in the state from Oct. 1 through Jan. 10, the day Tyler died.

However, hundreds of people die in Louisiana every year from the flu or other conditions made worse by it without a flu diagnosis. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, there may have been up to 300,000 cases, up to 500 hospitalizations and up to 200 deaths from influenza in Louisiana since the season started in October.

H1N1 is particularly concerning because of its recent history and its tendency to hit young people. The 2009 pandemic caused 18,449 confirmed deaths globally, but the actual toll is thought to be many times higher. A CDC research team estimated it could have been as high as 284,000.

An 8-year-old girl from Bossier City also died this season from H1N1.

“This is scary because it does affect younger people,” said Dr. David Holcombe, medical director and administrator for Region 6 of the Office of Public Health in Alexandria. “Every year, people die from the flu, but they’re often older people who have other health complications. It’s a terrible tragedy when a young person dies from this.”

Complicating matters, the swab test often used in hospitals and medical offices is not 100 percent accurate. More accurate blood testing often requires days.

The CDC has recommended health-care providers treat patients for H1N1 if they believe there’s a chance the patient is infected.

Health officials expect this flu season to last into April. Holcombe said it probably would peak in late January or early February.

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