HOWARD COUNTY, Md. -- Kirk Weiland lost his son, Zachary, on Feb. 22 to something many just don't think of as a risk to healthy teenagers: the flu.
Two weeks ago, despite feeling sick, Zachary played in a basketball game at his school, Mt. Airy Christian Academy.
When he came home, Zac started having trouble breathing.
He was eventually taken to Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. There, despite heroic efforts, Zac succumbed to his illness.
“We’re doing the best we can” to cope, Weiland said.
Flowers and other tributes in Zac’s memory have been placed outside Mount Airy Christian Academy. He was also honored at a recent school basketball game.
“This tragic death is highly unusual,” said Howard County Health Officer Dr. Peter Beilenson.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have only recorded nine pediatric influenza deaths in the U.S. this year. Still, Dr. Beilenson recommends that anyone over six months of age receive a flu shot.
“Most people who get the flu recover after a few days, but getting a flu shot and following common hygiene precautions can greatly reduce the risk of contracting the flu,” he said.
Just three days before Zachery Weiland died, another Maryland teenager, 13-year-old Ian Willis, who attended Urbana Middle School in Frederick County, died after being diagnosed with Influenza-B.
As Kirk Weiland mourns the loss of his beloved son, he has some simple advice to parents.
“Tell them how much you love them, put your arms around them, because quite honestly we don’t know how much time we have,” he said.
Zachery Weiland’s family has established a memorial fund in his name, in hopes that his memory will live on through its good works. Donations can be sent to:
Zachery Weiland Memorial Fund
C/o StormCenter Communications, Inc.
6021 University Boulevard, Suite 140
Ellicott City, MD 21043