A 47-year-old mother of two who was planning to marry her fiancé in the fall died one week after being diagnosed with the flu.
Friends and family of Katherine Acton, who lived in Shelby County, Alabama, are grieving after her unexpected death. “Keep hoping that we will wake up tomorrow and it won’t be real,” close friend Donna Mann told WBMA.
Her fiancé, Chuck Benzeil, told the news outlet that she was the love of his life. “You can’t describe the hole that you feel, the utter lack of direction,” he said.
Acton’s death comes as a shock to those closest to her. The mother of two was into fitness and maintained a healthy diet.
“She was the image of perfection. When she walked into the room jaws dropped,” her trainer, Britt Walker, told WBMA.
Another friend, Melanie Clough, took to Facebook to pay tribute to Acton, expressing the shock of losing a “precious, beautiful angle.”
“One thing I know for sure is that this did not catch God by surprise,” she wrote, “and I know something good will come this.”
She added: “Cherish every single moment with your loved ones and check on the ones God lays on your heart because as we found out today, we are not promised tomorrow here on earth.”
According to the news outlet, the Shelby County Coroner reports there have been eight flu-related deaths in the area since the start of flu season.
“A lot of times the biggest issue with the flu is that when you get in contact with it, your body’s response to it, especially for a young healthy person can be very aggressive,” Dr. Jordan Vaughn told WBMA.
The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) currently lists the 2017 to 2018 flu season as “moderately severe,” and warns it could get worse. More than 30 children have succumbed to the virus across the nation so far, PEOPLE confirmed with the CDC.
The CDC reports that the flu vaccine lessens the chance that someone catches the virus by 10 to 60 percent and doesn’t guarantee that someone will not catch the flu. However, the annual vaccine is highly recommended by the CDC for everyone 6 months and older and the more people that get vaccinated can limit the disease’s spread throughout the community.
Getting the flu shot and staying home if you’re sick are two of the most important ways to reduce transmission. But the CDC says it’s also important to wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wipe down surfaces that may have come into contact with contagion, as flu germs can live on them for up to 24 hours.