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Mother who lost 3-year-old to influenza in 2014 urging vaccines as activity increases

Medical professionals aren't the only ones encouraging the flu vaccine. Amber McCarthy has made it her mission to help keep her daughter's memory alive.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Medical officials say it's not just COVID-19 we have to worry about. Contrary to last year, flu season is in full effect and hospitals say all these viruses and other normal medical needs are making hospitals burst at the seams.

Influenza and COVID-19 have similar side effects which are causing doctors to have trouble knowing which virus people have contracted.  

"It's very difficult when you come to the doctor and you feel sick, and you're having fevers and chills and body aches and you're coughing, or generally just don't feel well or have a sore throat, for us to tell the difference on the front lines, if you have influenza, or if you have COVID, or you have one of the many other viruses that might come along," said Dr. Jennifer Abler with MercyOne. "And so if you get your flu shot, it's a little bit easier for us to know that it's probably not influenza, we can kind of roll that off, take that off the list."

Medical professionals aren't the only ones encouraging people to get the flu vaccine as Amber McCarthy has made it her mission to help keep her daughter's memory alive.

"We lost daughter as easily as she was three to the flu in 2014...since Ayzlee passed away, we just keep trying to do things in her memory, and to get the word out that vaccination is key," McCarthy said. "We do easily flu clinics in her memory every year in our communities. And just kind of keep her story, I guess, going that way."

Dr.  Abler insists the best way to combat both of the viruses is to get vaccinated, but also by practicing other mitigation tactics like washing your hands, wearing a mask and wiping down surfaces. 

"It really is about risk stratification and mitigating your risk deciding how much risk you want to take," Abler said. "The safest way to do it is to mask up, make sure you're washing your hands, make sure that you are trying to keep some distance when you're out and about outdoor activities are going to be more or less risk. But it's getting harder because it's getting more cold and weather doesn't cooperate with some of those outdoor activities as much. But making sure that you're getting your vaccines flu shot, COVID vaccine COVID Booster."

For McCarthy, she wants people to know what happened to her daughter can happen to anyone.

"If you ever wonder like, you know, 'Well, Ayzlee's story was just, you know, one in a million, that's not going to happen to my kid.' And, you know, we thought the same thing. We're just a rural Iowa family, normal Iowa family. And if you go to Families Fighting Flu on their website, there's a list of different age children, adults, parents, moms, young kids, middle-aged kids, teenagers, and they all have Story of them passing away because of the flu."

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