Dade City mom, 27, dies of complications from swine flu

Published Dec. 20, 2013

DADE CITY — For three days last month, Holly Harrelson endured what she described as "pure misery."

"Haven't been able to keep my temp below 102.0 and I feel like I'm riding shotgun with death!" she posted Nov. 3 on her Facebook page. If by morning nothing had changed, she was headed to the hospital. "At this point I'm scared," she wrote.

The next day, the 27-year-old mother of three went to Pasco Regional Medical Center, where she died. Friends and health officials say it was from complications from the H1N1 influenza virus, commonly known as swine flu.

Harrelson got sick at a time when the county and the state reported only mild flu activity. However, the number of people seeking treatment for symptoms appeared to be on the rise, according to a week-by-week state report called "Flu Review."

One pediatric influenza-associated death has been reported in the state during the 2013-14 flu season. Currently, Florida reports "minimal" levels of flu activity.

The most common flu reported in Florida during recent weeks was the strain that Harrelson had, the H1N1. Swine flu caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009. It is now a human seasonal flu virus that also circulates in pigs.

Symptoms include a 100-degree or higher fever or a feverish feeling, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches or body aches, chills and fatigue, according to, a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.

"It's rare for someone that age to succumb to the flu," said Dr. Marc Yacht, a physician and retired director of the Pasco County Health Department. However, he said underlying medical problems could weaken a person's immune system and render the virus "very dangerous."

Nationally (including Florida), almost all circulating influenza is a good match for the vaccine, according to the state health department. Health officials say it's still a good idea to get the vaccine.

"It's not too late, and the sooner the better, because it does take two weeks for flu shots to build up in the body," said Deanna Krautner, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Pasco.

No one could confirm on Thursday whether Harrelson had received the vaccine.

The daughter of Dade City police Sgt. Tim Harrelson and his wife, Kim, Harrelson graduated from Pasco High School.

She also left behind two sons, Lester and Levi, and a daughter, Jaylynn. Friends said the boys were staying with the Harrelsons while Jaylynn was with her father.