Family meant everything to India Smith.

“Her children were her life,” said Brittney Thomas, Smith’s sister. “She worked really hard to make sure her boys had everything.”

Smith, 31, of Oxford died of complications from the flu Saturday at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Thomas said. Hers is the second reported death of a person with Calhoun County ties from this year’s flu outbreak — an addition to the already more than 80 reported flu-related deaths being investigated by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Attempts to reach Emory University Hospital for comment were unsuccessful Monday.

Thomas said Smith was diagnosed with the flu about two days before her death. Though relatively young, Smith had contracted lupus last year, which made her more vulnerable to the flu, Thomas said. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs.

Smith’s death follows that of Dr. Chris Bittner, a 44-year-old Alexandria dentist who reportedly died due to flu-related illness last month in Etowah County.

The ADPH is investigating 87 possible flu-related deaths, up from 52 deaths two weeks ago.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 states, including Alabama, are experiencing widespread flu activity. Also as of Friday, 63 children had died from the flu nationwide, the CDC states.

The vaccine is said less effective this year, which has contributed to the high rate of flu cases. Still, the CDC recommends the vaccine as the best way to prevent flu infection.

But Smith was more than a death statistic.

She was the loving mother of a 10-year-old son and an 11-year-old son. And she was a hard worker at the Honda Manufacturing Plant in Lincoln who loved her job, Thomas said.

“And she loved her family and she was very sweet,” Thomas said. “Anything you wanted her to do, she would do it for you.”

Thomas added that her sister was an avid shopper who was always very outgoing.

“She was just an overall happy person,” Thomas said.



Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.