12-year-old dies of swine flu in Grays Harbor Co.


by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News and KING5.com


Posted on November 16, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 16 at 7:06 PM

Swine flu informational meeting

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ABERDEEN, Wash. – A 12-year-old boy is the first person in Grays Harbor County to die from swine flu.

Conner Woodruff's mother says her son never met a book he didn't like.

"He would read and recommend books to the librarian and the teachers," she Sheril Woodruff.

Greater than his love of books was his love of family, friends, even people he didn't know.

"He was amazing. Just an amazing kid. Probably the kindest heart. He drove people to him," said Sheril

Back on November 4, Conner was sent home from Robert Gray Elementary School with a mild fever.

"I always thought symptoms were more severe and his weren't. He's been way sicker in the past with normal flu," said Sheril.

But two days later, Conner collapsed at home. He never regained consciousness. He was a healthy, active boy with no underlying health conditions and no serious symptoms. Doctors say he had a very uncommon complication in which his heart became inflamed.

"This is a rare event that is associated with many different kinds of viral illness such as measles, chickenpox, mumps, and influenza," said Dr. John Bausher, the Grays Harbor County Health Officer.

Despite what happened to Conner, health officials remind parents there's no need to panic.

"Watch your kids during the course of an illness and if it looks like they're in trouble call your health care provider and ask. In Conner's case this happened very quickly and there's nothing his parents could've done," said Joan Brewster, Director of Grays Harbor County Public Health.

Adding to the already unbearable news for the Wodruffs was not finding out it was swine flu until a week after Conner's death.

"That was truly one of the most terrifying hours of not knowing how to protect our daughter's daughter," said Sheril.

That is why they want parents to know that the incubation period for swine flu is one to three days. More importantly, they want parents to appreciate what they have.

"To not always live like you're scared, but to make the most of each day," said Sheril.

The health department says it can take a few days to get the results back on a swine flu culture because they need to grow the cells.

Bausher says swine flu is widespread in the county and that every school likely has children who are affected.

"It is important to remember that most people who get swine flu get well in 4-7 days without problems. Conner's death should not be seen as an indication of increased risk in the community, but as a very sad fact of viral illnesses," said Bausher.

The Aberdeen School District is hosting a meeting for parents of Robert Gray students at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Robert Gray gymnasium. Public health officials will be on hand to answer questions for parents.