The mother of a 16-year-old Upper Hutt College boy who died at home just days after showing flu symptoms is in disbelief over his death.

By Kirsty Wynn NZ Herald

The death of William Jones from a sudden bout of flu has left his family and friends in a state of grief.

The death of William Jones from a sudden bout of flu has left his family and friends in a state of grief.
picture: Givealittle

A 16-year-old boy died within a few days due to a sore throat, his grieving mother cannot believe that her healthy son is no longer in this world.

Rebecca Rollason found her son William unconscious in bed on the morning of Friday, June 14, after suffering from what began as a sore throat and cough a few days earlier.

“As you can imagine, we are in deep despair and can't believe he is gone,” Rebecca said. To inform,

“It feels like the worst nightmare we can't wake up from.”

William was a much-loved and talented musician at Upper Hutt College, proudly obtaining his driving licence within a few weeks of his 16th birthday.

He was generally fit and healthy, but on Tuesday 11 June he developed a sore throat and a cough.

Rebecca called the doctor on Thursday and was told she had the flu and was told to give William plenty of fluids and to call again on Friday if she was still concerned.

That morning Rebecca went to check on her son and found him unconscious in bed.

He said, “We don't understand how this could happen to a boy who never fell ill and was completely healthy.”

“We ask ourselves how this problem, which began with a sore throat, runny nose and cough on Tuesday, ended three days later.

“Nobody understands, we don't know what happened. We have to wait for the results.”

Rebecca said her son's totally unexpected death had left his entire family, his friends, classmates at Upper Hutt College and the wider community stunned.

He was farewelled a week later, and his funeral was attended by school classmates, former teachers and others from the Upper Hutt community.

“William was a wonderful, talented and extremely bright boy who we love very much,” he added.

“He was a talented musician and had his future all planned out.”

“This is an incredibly difficult and devastating time for us.”

A friend of Rebecca set up a Givealittle page to help pay for funeral costs and ease the financial pressure on Rebecca and William’s two brothers to give them time to grieve.

Friends, former teachers and community members donated to the page and left heartfelt messages for Williams, describing him as “a wonderful friend” and a “lovely young man.”

Rebecca said William was a wonderful son and had big plans for his future.

“Life will never be the same without my beautiful 16-year-old son.”

The tragedy comes as health experts are urging Kiwis to be alert to the dangers of winter respiratory viruses, including influenza, Covid-19, RSV and rhinovirus, which causes the common cold.

While Covid-19 has become New Zealand's number one infectious disease, flu remains a major problem – responsible for about 2 per cent of deaths annually.

But flu-related deaths were very uncommon among young, healthy people, and a large proportion of deaths each year were recorded in our population over 65 years of age.

In February, an outbreak of influenza A caused six residents of the Whitianga Care Centre and Village to die within two weeks.

ESR surveillance showed that national rates of influenza-like illness were running at normal rates for the time of year, with cases of A/H1N1 or “swine flu” — a type that particularly affects older people and young children — making up the most of the sample.

H1N1 was one of the strains targeted by this year's flu vaccine, which is now freely available to people over 65 and other high-risk groups.

*This story was first published New Zealand Herald

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