An 18-year-old woman has died in hospital after catching the flu virus.
Bethany Walker, from Applecross in Wester Ross, had been suffering from the virus at home before it developed into pneumonia.
She was airlifted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where she died last Friday.
Her mother Heather Teale paid tribute to her “beautiful girl”, describing her as “the best daughter I could have ever wished for”.
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Details of the teenager’s death emerged as official figures confirmed the number of flu cases in Scotland has doubled in the last week.
Eight of the 53 people treated in intensive care units in Scotland in the past fortnight have died, although officials stressed they may have had underlying health issues and the mortality rate was relatively low.
Hospitals in England have also been seeing very high rates of patients with flu, with a sharp rise in cases seen by GPs in the past week – up 78% on the week before.
In Wales, a large rise in flu cases has prompted advice to stay away from some hospitals.
‘Best possible treatment’
In a Facebook post, Bethany’s mother said: “My beautiful daughter Bethany Walker was taken from me yesterday.
“She had been suffering from a flu virus, which became pneumonia, she was airlifted to Raigmore with me by her side yesterday morning, where she rapidly deteriorated, the staff in intensive care could not have done more, she was given the best possible treatment from a team of 8 people for over two hours, they tried everything possible but sadly despite their best efforts she didn’t make it.
“I am broken, the bottom has fallen out of my world. I have my mum with me, and my wonderful son Danny Walker who are both feeling the same loss as I am. Life will never be the same again.
“Bethany, I love you to the moon and back, I always have and I always will, you were the best daughter I could have ever wished for and I will always be the proudest mum in the world.
“I have no more words. I’m truly devastated. Sleep tight my beautiful girl, your brother and I will love you forever, you will never be out of my thoughts as long as I live.”
Bethany left Plockton High School last summer and was in the middle of a year out before planning to study midwifery in Aberdeen.
‘Perfect in every way’
The school said the former deputy head girl was a “kind, caring and gifted” student who had been a “super role model” to younger pupils.
She was among students who stay in a hostel in Plockton due to distance they have to travel from their homes to attend classes.
Plockton High School said: “It was a privilege for all of us to have taught Bethany, to have known her in her years in the school and to have maintained contact with her after she left.
“It is tragic to lose someone so young and the thoughts of the whole school and the hostel are with Bethany’s family at this sad time.”
Judith Fish, from the Applecross Inn where Bethany worked, said her death was a double blow to a close-knit community still grieving the recent loss of local fisherman Alasdair Macleod.
She said: “We’ve known Bethany growing up from being a young girl. She was perfect in every way. Lots of dedication and devotion. She’s worked very hard in her studies.
“We’re still grieving as a community for the loss of Ali as well, so it’s come at a very hard time for us.”
NHS Highland said it was unable to comment on individual cases, but that people with flu symptoms who had a long-term medical condition, a weakened immune system, were pregnant or over the age of 65 should contact their GP.
A spokeswoman said: “There is no evidence that it (the latest flu outbreak) is particularly bad or that we have more of it in this area than we would expect.
“The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against the spread of flu and it isn’t too late to get vaccinated.
“People suffering with flu-like symptoms should cough or sneeze into tissues and bin them immediately, wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water and frequently clean regularly-used surfaces to stop the spread of flu.
“Avoid having unnecessary contact with other people if you or they have symptoms of flu.”
Weekly figures released by Health Protection Scotland (HPS) on Thursday showed an increase in cases of flu from 46 per 100,000 people in the last week of December to 107 per 100,000 in the first week of January.
The official figures revealed:
- The flu status has been raised from “normal” seasonal activity to “moderate”
- A further 30 patients needed intensive care
- Mortality rates related to the virus were still “low”, with eight out of the total of 53 intensive care cases having died
- The flu rate had also doubled the previous week, from just over 20 per 100,000 to 46 per 100,000
Just over half of the circulating strains of flu match those in the 2017/18 vaccine, and most are believed to be the H3N2 strain known as “Aussie Flu” after problems the virus caused in Australia.
Questions have been asked in recent days about low flu immunisation uptake rates for NHS staff, with HPS again urging everyone who is eligible for vaccination to do so.
The HPS report said: “Vaccination of those eligible for seasonal influenza remains the most important preventative measure to reduce influenza”.