"It can happen right in your neighborhood. Right in your home. It happened to us. Lightning struck.”

It started as the sniffles. Mom thought it was a cold.

It was the flu. And it was fatal.

 

On Tuesday, 12-year-old Dylan Winnik died from influenza, his mother’s partner Mike Medwin told WPTV in West Palm Beach.

“Don’t mess around with the flu,” Medwin told the station. “It’s not going to somebody else. It can happen right in your neighborhood. Right in your home. It happened to us. Lightning struck.”

For Dylan, a seventh grader at Okeeheelee Middle School in West Palm Beach, the symptoms escalated quickly, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The newspaper reported that Dylan, who did not get his flu shot this year, had a cold for about two days before he died.

On Tuesday, rescue crews rushed to Dylan’s father’s home near Southern Boulevard and South Military Trail. They were too late.

“Please implore other parents to not take the flu lightly whatsoever,” Medwin told WPTV.

Dylan’s death comes as the country grapples with a very active flu season that has already taken the lives of 30 children across the United States, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. In addition to Dylan, two other children have died in Florida so far this season, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Earlier this month, federal health officials said hospitalizations and visits to the doctor are on the rise because of flu symptoms; the H3N2 subtype of the virus appears to be the most predominant strain.

In the state’s last Flu Review report that looked at Jan 7-13, data show an increased number of cases statewide, but no outbreaks in Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach counties.

Dylan’s family set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Dylan’s funeral and memorial.

“He was and will always be greatly loved by countless family and friends,” wrote Medwin. “There is nothing that can ever explain the loss of a beautiful child at such an early age.”

Wanda Winnik, who identified herself as the child’s cousin on Facebook, posted a moving tribute in Spanish that partially read: “My dear Dylan: I didn’t like it when you said you were big … I told you that even if you were 54, you’d always be little to me.”

Officials warn parents to get their children a flu shot — it can help lessen the severity of the illness. To find where flu shots are being given in Florida, click here.