Leesburg teen dies days after being diagnosed with the flu

Days after turning 16 and being diagnosed with the flu, a Loudoun County, Virginia, girl has died, leaving her family in shock.

Katie Giovanniello, a sophomore at Heritage High School in Leesburg, died last Friday.

“This morning, we received some extremely sad news concerning a student at Heritage, Katie Giovanniello. Katie passed away unexpectedly this morning. As many of you no doubt are, I am deeply saddened by this news,” Heritage High School principal Jeff Adam announced in a Friday letter to parents.

Giovanniello’s mother Colette told NBC Washington that her daughter was diagnosed with the flu on Sunday, Feb. 2, and she stayed home from school to get well. On Thursday, Colette found her daughter unresponsive.

Colette Giovanniello believes her daughter died from complications related to the flu, and she urges other parents not to underestimate the virus and get their children vaccinated.

“Don’t ever take it for granted. If I could do one thing, I would have never even taken her home Sunday,” she told NBC Washington.

The family is still awaiting results of an autopsy to find out the exact cause of death.

Upon learning of the death, Heritage High School postponed a pep rally planned for last Friday, and canceled a school dance that was supposed to happen last Saturday.

In addition, counselors were made available to students and staff.

Many in the school community planned to wear green, Katie’s favorite color, to honor her on Tuesday.

An online fundraising drive to help the family pay for funeral costs has raised more than twice its $5,000 goal.

Watch NBC Washington’s interview with Colette Giovanniello.

Flu-related pediatric deaths have been reported in the D.C. area. In January, Children’s National Hospital in D.C. confirmed that a patient who tested positive for the flu died. In Frederick County, Maryland, a boy died from sepsis days after a flu diagnosis, NBC Washington reported. And in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, a 7-year-old boy died from flu-related complications, The Associated Press reported.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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