Swine Flu claims Shelby County child - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Swine Flu claims Shelby County child

By Lori Brown - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Swine Flu has killed an 8th grade student at a Memphis middle school. It's the area's first death this flu season. But doctors say it's likely not the last.

A White Station Middle School student says he was stunned when his football coach announced that 8th grader Michael Howse had died Monday. 

The health department says his death was the result of H1N1 influenza.   What makes the first swine flu death in the county so surprising, is that before Howse caught the virus, classmates say he was the picture of athleticism and health.

Howse was a starting running back for White Station Middle School. His friend Everet Turnage says he was also a straight "A" student in the school's advanced optional program.

"He was cheerful, would always make up handshakes he was a great guy," Turnage said.

Turnage played football with Howse. When news of Howse's death was announced at what would have been football practice, it was an emotional moment.

"My coach who I didn't think would cry in a million years started crying, that's when I started to cry," Turnage said.

Turnage last saw Howse less than two weeks ago.

"He was fine, in a cheerful mood, but you could tell he was starting to get sick, he was coughing a lot," Turnage said.

Turnage can't believe the swine flu could kill someone so healthy and athletic. Howse played in the school's last game against MUS.

"He scored a touchdown, made a lot of tackles on defense," Turnage said.

News of Howse' death spread rapidly on Facebook. White Station 8th grader Alexis Kelley has known Howse since third grade.

"He was amazing," Kelley said. "Very good guy. Helped me hang up my backpack, because I couldn't reach the locker hook."

It's going to be a difficult day Tuesday as White Station Middle School students return to school, without their popular classmate in the halls shaking hands with his signature handshakes.

Here's what experts say to do if you or your child is sick.

Stay home if the fever is 100 degrees or more. Call your doctor if the fever is combined with respiratory problems. Go to the emergency room if you or your child has trouble breathing, a fever with a rash or blue-like skin color, or if the fever returns with a worse cough.

The Health Department is investigating if any underlying medical condition may have contributed to Howse's death. There will be a news conference tomorrow morning about the county's preparedness for H1N1. We will be there and let you know what is announced.

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