San Diego

San Diego's First Child to Die from Flu Remembered by Grandmother

The teenager had underlying medical conditions and died from influenza last week, San Diego County health officials said

The grandmother of a teenager who was the first San Diego child to die from the flu this season said her granddaughter's illness was a shock: one day, she laid down for a nap and never woke up.

Julie Leyva Campos, 14, passed away on Feb. 12 from influenza A Pandemic H1N1. She had not gotten a flu vaccine this season and had an unspecified underlying medical condition, according to San Diego County health officials.

Her grandmother, Imelda Leyva, said Campos laid down for a nap at around 11:30 a.m. on the day she died because she wasn't feeling well. A few hours later, one of her siblings tried to wake her up but she was unresponsive.

One of Imelda's sons ran to Campos and noticed she wasn't breathing and they immediately called 911.

Imelda said Campos complained of a headache and sore throat the night before. She said Campos had headaches often from not wearing her eyeglasses and the night before, she had misplaced them. Both Imelda and Campos figured that was the reason she felt ill.

Imelda described her granddaughter as a social butterfly who lit up any room she walked into.

“If you were sad, you could just talk to her for a few minutes and she would brighten up your day," Imelda said. 

Campos was a freshman in high school but was already preparing for college. She was running for student body president and wanted to be a cardiologist when she grew up.

Some of Imelda's most fond memories with Campos included nights the family would gather on the couch and watch their evening shows.

"I never thought they'd take her away so soon," she said.

In the days after the teen's death, her siblings developed similar symptoms. Imelda said she went into an overprotective panic, frequently checking in on her other grandchildren as they slept to make sure they were breathing.

Imelda said Campos was a healthy child and didn't have any underlying health conditions.

"She’s in my heart and I love her and I miss her so much," Imelda said. "She was my rock; she was my everything. But there’s a reason why God called her. Shes my little angel now and I lover her very much.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the teenager's family.

Last flu season, two pediatric flu-related deaths were reported in San Diego County: a 10-year-old boy and a 1-year-old baby. During the 2016-2017 flu season, there were also two pediatric flu-related deaths in San Diego County.

Julie was one of five flu-related deaths reported in the county last week, the HHSA said. The other four deaths were men, all with underlying medical conditions, ranging in age from 56 to 82. Only two of the men had been vaccinated.

Up until now, the youngest San Diego resident to die from the flu this season had been a 27-year-old man who died from influenza Pandemic H1N1 on Jan. 9. He too had underlying health conditions, the HHSA said. A 32-year-old San Diego man with no underlying health issues also died last month from influenza A.

Thus far, 35 San Diegans have died from influenza this season. At this same time last year, during an unprecedented spike in flu cases and deaths, a total of 268 locals had died from the flu.

Last week, the HHSA said a total of 539 lab-confirmed flu cases were reported in San Diego County, marking the highest weekly total of this season. Many of those cases were influenza A Pandemic H1N1. The Pandemic H1N1 virus is known to sicken younger people more than others because of a lack of exposure to the virus, health officials said.

Health officials said it is important to get vaccinated as the flu “continues to be widespread.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu shot every year. For those without insurance, county public health centers offer the vaccination.

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