Tony Leys, email@example.com:58 a.m. CST January 7, 2015
A 7-year-old Des Moines boy has died from the flu, his aunt said Tuesday.
Travon Epps Jr.'s family became the third in Iowa to say that a child had succumbed to flu complications this winter.
Travon had a serious heart condition and was awaiting a heart transplant, said his aunt, Shundrea Trotty. His mother, Myria Trotty, took him to the emergency room on New Year's Day after he developed relatively mild symptoms, similar to a cold. She sought help because she knew that his heart problem meant any sickness could be dangerous.
Doctors diagnosed him with the flu and admitted him to Blank Children's Hospital for treatment, Shundrea Trotty said. But his condition worsened and he died Sunday, she said.
Travon was a smart, funny second-grader at Jackson Elementary School, his aunt said. "He was just a feisty little kid — a fighter," she said. He loved spending time with his friends and his four sisters and one brother. He didn't seem to be bothered by things that would upset other kids, she said. "He truly had a zeal and a zest for life, like he knew he wouldn't be here long."
Trotty said Travon was diagnosed about a year ago with cardiomyopathy, a condition that made his heart nearly three times its normal size. The condition sometimes made him weak and lethargic, but the family was optimistic that he would receive a heart transplant and would regain his health.
Travon had been vaccinated against the flu, but the family knew his heart problem made him vulnerable, his aunt said.
xperts have said this year's flu vaccine is not as effective as usual, because the most common flu strain has shifted its genes in a way that makes it a relatively poor match for the shots. However, public-health officials have emphasized that the shots are still worth getting, because they provide some protection.
Public health officials have declined to identify children who have died. But two other Iowa families also have said publicly that their daughters were killed by complications of the flu. Unlike Travon, those girls were healthy before catching the virus, their families said.
His aunt said Travon's funeral is set for 1 p.m. Monday at Elpis Christian Fellowship, 3603 Douglas Ave. A fund for the family has been set up at Veridian Credit Union, 3221 S.E. 14th St.