Swine Flu Kills "Healthy" 23-Year-Old

He is the youngest victim so far in the Bay Area to die from the flu

By Jodi Hernandez
|  Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014  |  Updated 1:10 PM EDT
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He was young, active and healthy, but that was no match for this year's deadly flu virus. A 23-year-old Bay Area man is one of the latest victims to die from the flu. It is catching the attention of a lot of people. NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez, who has been talking to  the young man's family and friends, reports from Santa Rosa.

He was young, active and healthy, but that was no match for this year's deadly flu virus. A 23-year-old Bay Area man is one of the latest victims to die from the flu. It is catching the attention of a lot of people. NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez, who has been talking to the young man's family and friends, reports from Santa Rosa.

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He was young, active and healthy, but that was no match for this year's deadly flu virus.

Matthew Walker, 23, is one of the latest victims to die from the flu, specifically the H1N1 virus commonly known as swine flu.

The death of the young man from Santa Rosa this week is catching the attention of a lot of people.

MORE: Bay Area H1N1 Flu-Related Deaths on the Rise

Walker’s friends and family are devastated.

“I can't believe something like this could happen to someone so young,” said 21-year-old Tanner Petersen, Walker’s friend and co-worker.

Petersen said he can’t believe his friend is gone. Just three weeks ago, Walker was working beside him in the produce department of G and G Supermarket in Santa Rosa before coming down with a fatal case of the flu.

“He'd been coughing for awhile, but it didn't seem like anything, just a normal cough,” Petersen said. “Just this quickly, like boom, he goes from being completely fine to where we're at right now.”

MORE: Flu Prevention Tips

Walker's health spiraled down incredibly fast. He chronicled it all on Facebook:

On Dec. 22 he wrote: “Woke up heeeela sick…sore throat cough runny nose.”

Two days later he wrote: "I'm so over being sick.”

But by the end of that week he was in the hospital a second time: "Lying in a gurney with 103 temp today no fun,” he wrote. Within hours, Walker had gone Code Blue.

“It's a very ragged roller coaster ride, with a horrible ending,” Walker’s father Cliff told NBC Bay Area via telephone.

Walker's father, who enjoyed playing music with his son, said it's hard to accept. He said his son played the saxophone and harmonica, and was an avid skateboarder, but above all he was healthy.

Cliff Walker is warning other young people to take care of themselves. His 23-year-old son didn't get a flu shot, something Matthew Walker's father says would have saved him.

“Take very seriously respiratory stuff, and get your shots if you don't have the symptoms,” Cliff Walker said. “If you have the symptoms, get treatment now.”

MORE: Regional Medical Center of San Jose Sets Up Flu Tent

“It's scared me a lot,” Petersen said.

A shaken Petersen just got the flu vaccination, but he is heartbroken his friend couldn't be saved.

“I just want him to know I love him, and we care about him,” Petersen said. “We miss you, man.”

Walker’s father confirms it was the H1N1 virus that took his son’s life. Matthew was hospitalized within days of showing symptoms.

With his family by his side, Matthew Walker succumbed to the flu on Wednesday. He is survived by his parents, as well as four brothers and a sister.

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