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Washington mom who lost daughter to flu warns parents of influenza dangers

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Rebecca Hendricks with her daughter Scarlet Taylor before she later passed away from the flu. (Photo: Rebecca Hendricks)

A Washington mom is asking parents to learn about the dangers of influenza and to get their children vaccinated before it's too late, in the wake of two pediatric flu deaths.

The Oregon Health Authority confirmed Thursday they were separate cases. One child was younger than 10, another younger than five. The Health Authority could not disclose the locations because of confidentiality reasons.

"Flu season is particularly hard," Rebecca Hendricks told KATU's Chris Liedle. "The flu, this season, is running rampant."

In 2014, Hendricks lost her 5-year-old daughter, Scarlet, to the flu.

She remembers that December day clearly.

Her daughter's school called and said Scarlet had a fever and needed to be sent home.

Hendricks monitored her daughter's health over the following days.

"She was still active, still drinking [fluids], eating, hanging out. There wasn't anything that triggered, 'Oh, my God, this was serious,'" Hendricks said.

A day later, Hendricks said her daughter suddenly had trouble breathing.

"I woke my husband up and said, 'I'm taking Scarlet to the hospital,'" Hendricks recalled. "She died four hours later."

Her daughter's sudden death shocked the Hendricks family.

The family now leads a group called The End-Fluenza Project, (previously known as the Fight the Flu Foundation), which empowers families through education and awareness of influenza.

Hendricks says the group regularly visits schools and hospitals, and organizes several education campaigns targeting parents with young children.

Neither Hendricks nor her four children received flu shots prior to losing her daughter.

Ever since, her mother has made sure Scarlet's brother and sisters get flu shots every year.

She doesn’t know if getting Scarlet vaccinated would have made a difference, but she wishes she would have had the chance to find out.

And with talk of varying effectiveness, Hendricks recommends getting the shot, rather than not.

"The year my daughter died, it was only 7-percent effective," Hendricks said. "I would take 7-percent over no protection at all."

She said her daughter wanted to be a famous singer and dancer when she grew up. Now, Hendricks hopes her daughter’s story will make a difference.