Mother's tribute to 'beautiful girl' Bethany Walker who died after catching flu virus

Ajay Nair, News Reporter

The "broken" mother of a teenage girl who died days into the New Year said her daughter had been suffering from a flu virus.

Heather Teale paid tribute to Bethany Walker, from Applecross, Scotland, on Facebook, describing the 18-year-old as her "beautiful girl".

She said the student "deteriorated rapidly" after her flu "became pneumonia" causing her to be airlifted to hospital, where she was put in intensive care.

Ms Walker left school last summer to take a gap year before studying midwifery in Aberdeen, and is understood to have been taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness after becoming ill.

The latest figures for the UK say that 85 people have died of flu since the week starting 2 October, although that figure is up from 48 deaths the week before.

Ms Teale wrote: "Despite their best efforts she didn't make it. I am broken, the bottom has fallen out of my world... Life will never be the same again.

"Bethany, I love you to the moon and back, I always have and I always will, you were the best daughter I could have ever wished for and I will always be the proudest mum in the world.

"I have no more words. I'm truly devastated. Sleep tight my beautiful girl, your brother and I will love you forever, you will never be out of my thoughts as long as I live."

The death follows the spread of the Australian flu, which has been linked to a number of deaths in Ireland.

There was a sharp rise this week in the number of flu cases presenting to GPs in England - up 78 % - from 21 per 100,000 to 37.3 per 100,000.

The flu rate in Scotland for the first week of 2018 was four times higher than the same week in 2017.

Figures from Health Protection Scotland showed 107 people in every 100,000 of the Scottish population were suffering from a flu in the week ending 7 January, with figures among over-75s peaking at 212 per 100,000.

Scotland's deputy chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith has called on people eligible for a free vaccination, which include the elderly, young and pregnant, to get vaccinated.

He said: "While we've still got a couple of months of winter left, this week's statistics provide further evidence that the vaccine is a good match against the current most common strains.

"I would encourage anyone in an eligible group to get vaccinated - it is the best defence against flu."

Plockton High School, Bethany's former school, paid tribute to the "kind, caring, gifted and exceptionally conscientious student" in another Facebook post.

It said the school community was "saddened" by the news after the former deputy head girl left in the summer of 2017 to take a gap year before taking up a place at the University of Aberdeen to study midwifery.

The statement added: "It is tragic to lose someone so young and the thoughts of the whole school and the hostel are with Bethany’s family at this sad time."