Flu complications linked to White Knoll student’s death

Brett Williams' flu-type, which can be deadly in adolescents, is currently most prevalent in S.C.

The death of a 16-year-old White Knoll High student and baseball star appears linked to a recent diagnosis of common flu.

Brett Williams (Photo provided)

According to Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher, the results of a comprehensive autopsy performed on Brett Williams of West Columbia are currently pending as further testing and studies are being conducted.

However, Fisher said Thursday “that all information obtained indicates that Mr. Williams’s death was related to a recent illness. Mr. Williams tested positive for Influenza B on January 14, 2017. Following this initial diagnosis, his symptoms worsened significantly until his death on January 17, 2017.”

It is expected to be several weeks until all test results are available and a final cause of death can be determined, Fisher added.

Williams was pronounced dead after being transported to Palmetto Health Richland Hospital earlier this week. He reportedly had gone to the hospital Monday after having trouble breathing, according to Fisher.

Williams, a 6-foot, 185-pound pitcher and infielder for the Timberwolves, had just committed on January 5 to play baseball for the University of South Carolina in 2019. His sudden death has caused an outpouring of grief and condolences across the Midlands and the state.

While medical authorities work to determine the exact cause of death, state authorities warned that the Influenza B virus that Williams contracted is on the rise.

Influenza B, spread only among humans, has no sub types, versus type A which has multiple sub types and can be spread through humans and several species of animals. The distinction is important: Based on the most recent flu-surveillance report by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, released January 14, type B flu is currently the most prevalent strain in the state, accounting for nearly 52 percent of all cases documented in the most-recent January 8-14 reporting period.

Since October 2016, the start of the current flu season, there were seven flu-related fatalities in the state before Williams’ January 17 death. Of those seven, five were reported here in the Midlands, according to SCDHEC.

Influenza B is one of three main types of flu, including types A and C, that strike each year. Though typically considered less virulent and deadly than the more common type A, type B flu can have deadly consequences nonetheless, especially in younger victims of the illness.

It is currently accepted that influenza B viruses can cause significant morbidity and mortality, and significantly impacts adolescents and schoolchildren, according to peer-reviewed immunological studies published over the past few years.

Meanwhile, as a final determination on Williams’ death awaits, friends and family and classmates prepared Friday to say goodbye.

Williams’ visitation will take place on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Caughman Harman Funeral Home, located 503 N. Lake Dr. in Lexington.

The funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, at 11 a.m., at Northside Baptist Church, located at 4347 Sunset Blvd. in Lexington.