Hudsonville family suffers two losses in days; one due to swine flu

Posted at 11:38 PM, Apr 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-21 23:38:54-04

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. – A Hudsonville family suffered two deaths in less than two days, one of those confirmed by health officials to have been linked to H1N1.

Larry Ricketson, 71, died Sunday, just a couple of days after coming down with flu-like symptoms.

"I have 5 children and they lost their grandpa,” said his daughter, Cindy Lyons. "I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."

Then, as the family tried to cope with that loss, another family member - Larry's son, Robert Ricketson - got sick just two days later. Robert started to experience difficulty breathing and died on the way to the hospital.

"And he coded in the ambulance and that was it," Cindy said. "When they got to the hospital, they said they had done everything they could do."

Doctors know H1N1 - also known as swine flu - killed Larry, but they did not test Robert for the flu. Respiratory problems are the top suspect, but a confirmed cause of death was not confirmed.

Epidemiologist Brian Hartl with the Kent County Health Department says there has been an increase in H1N1 flu cases in Kent County this season, with 1,000 confirmed cases. But fortunately, the peak of the flu season is behind us, and Hartl says there’s many reasons why there’s an increase in swine flu this year.

"There's a number of factors: temperature, humidity, virulence of the strains that are out there," Hartl says. "Every year the strains change. Small changes to the protein in the virus that allow it to get in your body allow it to replicate in your body."

Heath officials say the spread of the flu can be prevented by getting annual flu shots and by washing your hands.