The family mourning the loss of Mekisha Agee is urging more people, especially pregnant women, to get flu vaccinations.

The Westmoreland woman, who had just turned 25, died Monday from complications of H1N1. The baby she was carrying, Kayelyn Agee, was in critical but stable condition Thursday at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. The baby weighed 4 pounds and 7 ounces.

"Mekisha just wasn't informed enough to get the flu shot," said Terry Martin, her stepfather. "She didn't realize how important getting it was, as a lot of people don't."

Although state and federal officials urge everyone over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated, pregnant women are among the groups especially at risk.
Other high-risk groups for flu complications include older adults, families with young children, and people with health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart problems.

Widespread flu activity

Tennessee is a state with widespread flu activity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three different viruses are in circulation this year, including the 2009 H1N1 strain. The flu vaccine protects against all three strains.

Martin said he believes Agee might have gotten vaccinated if she realized H1N1 was still a threat. She was not the only patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on a ventilator because of the flu. Five adults suspected of having H1N1 were in the hospital's intensive care unit on Thursday and four of them were on ventilators. Two of those cases were confirmed H1N1 infections, but lab tests were still pending on the other three.

Agee thought she had a bad cold before she went to Sumner Regional Medical Center on Feb. 11.

"She was having trouble breathing," he said. "They kept her there and transported her to Vanderbilt."

Agee was the mother of a 3-year-old son, Cameron Agee. Although she grew up in Middle Tennessee, she graduated from high school in Stewart, Fla. She worked at the Innovations in Management call center in Portland.

Martin said the family always knew when she was in the room because of her boisterous personality.

Family and friends are praying for her daughter, Kayelyn. "She had a feeding tube at one time," Martin said. "That feeding tube has been removed. They said she is taking the bottle."

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist with Vanderbilt University, just returned from Atlanta, where he attended a meeting of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

"If a person hasn't been infected with the (H1N1) virus previously and if they were not vaccinated against it, they remain just as susceptible to that infection today as last year," he said.

Of the three viruses in circulation this season, H1N1 is not the most prevalent in the Southeast, he said, but all of them carry risks.

"Influenza is the virus that can take a perfectly healthy child or adult and put them in the hospital and make them gravely ill," Schaffner said. "I mean 'gravely' in the rudest sense of that word. It's the killer virus."

Agee's service is at noon today in the chapel at Crestview Funeral Home.

Agee did not have any type of life or burial insurance. Donations can be made to Crestview Funeral Home, 1620 Highway 109 N., Gallatin, TN 37066.

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