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Loved ones blame flu for Baker County man's death

Man, longtime girlfriend fell sick weeks ago, friends say

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BAKER COUNTY, Fla. – As the flu epidemic continues to rage across the U.S., family and friends of a Baker County man tell News4Jax that they believe he died after contracting the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the spread of the flu in Florida is the highest it's been in a decade.

Florida Department of Health statistics show that from Jan. 21 to Jan. 27 flu activity “increased sharply for the third week in a row,” with 82 influenza or influenza-like illness outbreaks statewide, more than a quarter of the 241 outbreaks since the beginning of the season.

RELATED: Boyfriend believes flu was factor in Jacksonville woman's death

Duval County has had more than five outbreaks this flu season, according to health department numbers, and all surrounding counties have had outbreaks, too, including Baker County.

Charles Thornton's loved ones said that weeks ago he and his longtime girlfriend caught what they thought was a cold. The illness landed her in the hospital, where she was diagnosed with the flu.

Thornton never got that far, his friends said.

Donna Norris, a close family friend, said Thornton collapsed while getting dressed at home.
His loved ones think the flu killed him, but they might never know for sure.

“They already cremated him, because they didn’t have the money, so we weren't able to get an autopsy on him,” Norris said. “That’s the other thing people need to be aware of.”

Dr. David Cabezas at Urgent Care Now at the St. Johns Town Center said people shouldn't assume they have the common cold when they start to feel sick. The flu has been as common in the past two weeks as he’s seen in years.

“It’s impossible to differentiate,” Cabezas said. “Common colds and influenza can share the same symptoms. However, influenza can make you sicker than the common cold.”

Cabezas said that if symptoms persist for more than two days and you’re in an at-risk category – small children, over 65, have lung problems or a comprised immune systems, etc. -- get checked out by a doctor.

Also, a fever that won’t go down is a sign you might have the virus.

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Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.