Weather Forecast


Swine flu kills 32-year-old Duluth man with no chronic medical conditions

DULUTH, Minn. - "It's just unbelievable," said Debbie Walczynski of her son's improbable death last week after a bout with the H1N1 flu.

Matthew James Walczynski, 32, of Duluth, came home from work Nov. 6 running a fever of 103.8 degrees and went straight to bed, his mother said. Ten days later he was dead.

He's one of six people who have died in recent weeks in Duluth because of flu-related ailments, even as the number of reported flu patients nationwide has dropped.

And hospital officials say he is the only known adult Minnesotan to die from H1N1 complications who didn't have another underlying medical problem. Five of the six who have died here were adults and one was a child. All of the flu-related deaths occurred in November and came a month after new flu cases peaked in the region and nationally.

"The majority have been in the 18-to-64 age group with chronic medical conditions," said Beth Johnson, a spokeswoman for SMDC: St. Mary's Medical Center, a Duluth hospital.

But Matthew Walczynski had no prior history of health problems, his mother said.

"It came on quickly," Debbie Walczynski said. "We tried all weekend to get his temperature down, but we never could."

Besides the fever, Walczynski became congested and complained of aches.

On the evening of Nov. 10, he arrived at the SMDC emergency room and was admitted on the spot.

X-rays revealed Walczynski's lungs were severely congested, and his oxygen levels were dangerously low, prompting his transfer to SMDC's coronary intensive care unit on Nov. 11. There, he was placed on oxygen to improve his breathing. Walczynski also was diagnosed with a bacterial blood infection.

Three days later, a week after he came home sick, Walczynski was taken off oxygen and his X-rays seemed to show some clearing in his lungs. But his condition worsened on Nov. 16.

"About halfway through the day it turned on him, and his heart gave out," Debbie Walczynski said.

Dr. Kevin Stephan, an infectious disease specialist at SMDC, said he has not heard of any other H1N1 death in the state involving an adult with no prior underlying medical issues that would place them at risk.

"It's an exceedingly rare occurrence that's highly unexpected," he said.