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Washington mom warns of dangerous flu season after losing daughter

TACOMA, Wash. -- Flu season tends to spike toward the end of January into February in Washington state, and doctors are already seeing a rise in patients coming in to the hospital.

"January comes and it’s like, peak of the season is coming,” said Rebecca Hendricks.

Hendricks lost her her daughter to the flu four years ago, and for her this time of year is about looking back.

“She was a singer and a dancer and a little diva,” said Hendricks, remembering her 5-year-old daughter Scarlet.

Pictures of little Scarlet are displayed all over the house.

“I was hearing about flu on the news I didn’t really pay attention to it,” said Hendricks.

Four years ago, Hendricks got a call to come pick up Scarlet from school.

“She had a pretty high fever. It was 103. I brought her home, gave her some Tylenol and put on a movie,” said Hendricks.

The next day they went about their errands like normal, had a dentist appointment and went grocery shopping.

“It’s amazing how strong kids can be or present themselves to be,” she said.

Scarlet’s fever seemed to taper with more medicine but after a nap on the couch, “She fell asleep really fast, and she started making this strange breathing noise. She opened her eyes but she looked past me, it was like she was looking through me. I said ‘Whoa, I have to take you to the hospital,” said Hendricks.

“When I walked in there, I thought I was going to walk out with some medicine, I didn’t think I’d walk out without her. She died from respiratory failure caused by H3N2 flu."

Flu activity in Washington state has already started to peak, and doctors say they’re seeing an increase in patients presenting with symptoms.

“We had one to two cases, now we’re seeing five to six cases per day in the emergency department,” said Dr. John Lynch with UW Medicine.

He says about one in three people get the flu vaccine and it’s not too late to get your flu shot with the peak season around the corner.

“About 2 weeks for vaccine to kick in. We’re probably looking to get a peak in the next two to three weeks,” said Lynch.

“Don’t be worried about being overreactive, I mean you’re talking about life and death,” said Hendricks.

Hendricks says Scarlet’s death inspired her to create the End-FLUenza Project educating families on the flu.

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