World-renowned pop singer Prince has died at the age of 57, following news reports he had been battling the flu for several days.
There were no immediate details released about the singer’s cause of death but Dr. Marc Leavey tells Newsmax Health
that he would not be surprised if the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's passing turns out to be influenza.
“It may sound shocking, but what people don’t realize is that the flu can kill you, even if you're young and healthy,” says Leavey, an internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
The singer was discovered dead in his home in Chanhassen, Minn., after he had previously cancelled two shows due to illness, his publicist confirmed. Meanwhile, the entertainment Website TMZ reported that Prince was hospitalized for a a drug overdose late last week, citing unnamed sources.
But the artist appeared at a dance party last weekend, where he reassured fans about his health, saying: “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers,” the New York Daily News
Leavey said many Americans underestimate the public health risk poses.
“Flu is a serious illness that kills approximately 36,000 people and 200,000 are hospitalized in the U.S. every year,” says Leavey.
Up to 90 percent of people who die of the flu are age 65 or older. The virus also poses a greater risk to infants and people with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, or have compromised immune systems because of disease or medications that knock down their natural defenses against infections.
But the severity of the flu – and the age groups are affected – varies from year to year, sometimes posting a grave risk even to younger, otherwise health individuals.
In 2014, for example, the flu hit younger people surprisingly hard, resulting in an unusually high rate of hospitalizations and deaths of people ages 18 to 64, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And last year was a particularly bad year for all Americans because the most common strain of flu was particularly virulent and not targeted by the flu vaccine, which health officials say is the best defense against influenza.
“People think the flu is just like a bad cold, but it’s not. It’s a pneumonia-like illness. Even in young, apparently healthy people, the flu can overwhelm their body’s defenses, or it can set them up for an opportunistic infection, such as overwhelming pneumonia or sepsis,” Leavey notes. Sepsis is a potentially deadly blood infection.
According to reports, Prince had been battling flu symptoms for much of April. He was taken to a hospital on April 15 after his private jet made an emergency landing in Moline, Ill, in the early morning hours.
He released about three hours later, his representative said at that time. That previous night he had performed two shows in Atlanta, which had been originally scheduled for April 7, but were postponed due to the singer’s illness.
According to Leavey, such a scenario is not unusual. People often think they’ve recovered from flu, go back to their usual routine, and then fall ill again – sometimes sicker than before, particularly if they’ve developed a secondary illness such as pneumonia, he says.
“I always tell people to make sure they are fully recovered before they go back to their usual activities. It's one thing if you’re shuffling papers at a desk, but another if you’re up there singing and running around on stage. Performing takes a lot of energy,” he adds.
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