Mysterious deaths of mother, son lead to dangerous virus concerns

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ST. PETERS, Mo. — A mysterious sudden death of a mother and her adult son are raising concerns of a possibly dangerous virus.

Zach Smith, 19, and his mother Rhonda Smith, 48, both of St. Peters, died within four days of each other after being in seemingly perfect health.

The St. Charles County Health Department has been meeting with infectious disease doctors since Rhonda Smith’s death early Thursday morning at Barnes St. Peters Hospital.

Physicians at the hospital were at a complete loss to explain why Smith and her son’s health declined so rapidly and what caused their deaths.

“They checked him in, they thought he had pneumonia, and in a very short period of time, we’re talking an hour or two, they came back and told us his health was declining dramatically,” said Scott Dyer, a relative of the mother and son.

Zach Smith went to St. Joseph’s health Center Friday after feeling flu-like symptoms. Over the next two days, Smith developed infections, his organs shut down, he went into cardiac arrest and died Sunday.

“They said the explanation of death was even more to the fact they felt it was a strand of the flu from Africa,” said Dyer.

Four days later Zach’s mother, Rhonda, was checked into Barnes St. Peters Hospital after she went to have a side ache checked. Smith’s blood sugar was so high that she was at risk of a coma, although she wasn’t diabetic.

Dyer says doctors told Rhonda’s family that her health was deteriorating rapidly and that they were losing her and didn’t know what was going on.

Like Zach, Rhonda had severe respiratory problems. Her heart stopped eight times and was revived before she died twelve hours after being admitted. Doctors told the Smith’s family members to get tested for the flu and chest X-rays in case they had something that could have been passed to them.

“When the doctors walk in and tell you there’s nothing they can do, they have no idea what it is, that absolutely concerns me for the whole community, said Dyer.

The health department is hoping to get answers from an autopsy being performed Thursday on Rhonda Smith’s body and from lab tests that will be conducted.

Source: KMOV