FLOWER MOUND, Texas -- No one knows if 17-year-old Max Schwolert would still be alive had he gotten the flu shot. However, the teen’s family and friends are pushing for everyone out there to get vaccinated.
The Flower Mound High School student had not been vaccinated during a holiday visit to Wisconsin. His family rushed him to the hospital on Christmas night with the flu, which turned into a staph-related pneumonia.
Schwolert died four days later. Prior to this, his family says he had been a perfectly healthy teenager.
“He was just a wonderful, lively, funny, athletic child,” explained aunt Michelle Schwolert. “I’m the first one to say my family doesn’t get the flu shot, but we will and we will advocate from now on.”
According to the CDC, an average of 24,000 Americans die every year from the flu.
A doctor with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Houston says the flu shot would be about 90 percent effective in a healthy 17-year-old.
“Teenagers die from the flu every year,” said Dr. Melanie Mouzoon. “ It’s a sad story no matter when it happens.”
Dr. Mouzoon urges everyone 6 months and older to be given a vaccine.
“It’s a really, really strong virus,” she said.
Last year, Mouzoon says Kelsey-Seybold vaccinated at least 58,000 people. That’s more than ever before.
“This year is different in that the flu season has hit pretty early. The number of influenza-like illnesses coming in is higher than last year’s peak,” added Dr. Mouzoon. “It’s actually been the highest it’s been in a decade.”
Texas is among 11 states, mainly in the South, seeing high and widespread levels of the virus.
That is reason enough for mother Jessica Cervantes to make sure her 2-year-old daughter is vaccinated.
“It makes me feel better that she won’t get sick,” said Cervantes.
Doctors say flu viruses are likely to be spread for the next two to three months. You’re not out of time to get the flu shot, but it takes about two weeks for it to offer full protection.