Local News

UNC student dies from reported H1N1 complications

Posted December 17, 2009 1:04 a.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2009 6:59 p.m. EST

— A University of North Carolina student, who friends said was battling complications from the H1N1 virus, died Wednesday evening, according to UNC Hospitals and a Facebook post made by her father.

Freshman Lillian Chason had been in critical condition at UNC Hospitals for weeks. Friends said she started feeling bad before Thanksgiving and went into the hospital on Nov. 20.

"As you all know, she put up an incredible fight, and if there was anyway she could have overcome this disease, she would have," her father, Eric Charon, wrote on Facebook to announce her death.

"I think all of us are really shocked and completely devastated. We were so full of hope the past few weeks," UNC freshman Laura Page said. "Lillian was an amazing friend. She was full of compassion, and she would always be there for you."

Page was among the dozens of UNC students who donated blood Tuesday in Chason's honor because the life-support system she was on required plenty of blood to circulate through her system.

Dr. Charles van der Horst, an infectious disease specialist who treated her, said he also was surprised by her death.

"We thought she was going to pull through, so it was particularly disappointing," van der Horst said.

He couldn't talk specifically about Chason's case, but he said people who don't have underlying medical conditions are dying from H1N1.

"We know that about at least 25 percent of people who actually die from H1N1 have no risk factor whatsoever. They are not pregnant. They are not diabetic," van der Horst said. "This disease is attacking the young and people who are perfectly healthy as well."

Six people have died from H1N1 at UNC Hospitals, and a seventh might have died from complications, officials said.

Van der Horst said it's important for people to get immunized against the virus.

Page said many of her friends at UNC have already made appointments to get the H1N1 vaccine in the wake of Chason's death.

"I can't even comprehend it," she said. "It was so sudden and so soon, and we didn't even have a chance to say goodbye."