A 'Silent Killer' Masquerading as the Flu Took the Life of One Boy

His mom thought it was just a virus, but it was actually carbon monoxide poisoning.

This is just so sad. A 10-year-old boy lost his life last month, after the effects of a carbon monoxide leak in the family's Alaskan cabin were mistaken for the flu.

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When Sarah Kleb's daughter Caroline complained of a headache and her son Gavin started throwing up, the Anchorage mom assumed the whole family had come down with the flu. But it wasn't a virus. Instead, a propane-powered refrigerator had malfunctioned and was leaking odorless, colorless carbon monoxide—often called "the silent killer"—into the home as the three slept. The next day, all three were found unresponsive. Caroline and her mother both eventually recovered. But sadly, Gavin did not.

Now the grieving parents are speaking out about what happened, and about the danger they hadn't even known to consider.

"How would you know?" Sarah said in an interview with the Alaska Dispatch News. "Prior to this, I never would have thought about it."

Most parents wouldn't have, either. According to the CDC, it's easy to confuse the symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure—headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea—with the flu, since the gas can't be seen, heard, or smelled.

The Klebs did not have a carbon monoxide detector in the cabin, though they said they were planning to install one. And according to the CDC, that's the first thing you do to prevent accidental CO poisoning. Other tips include never burning charcoal indoors, never using a portable gas camp stove indoors and never using a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.

You should also make sure your gas appliances are vented properly, and have your chimney, heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.

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Our hearts go out to this family. If you'd like to help them with medical costs, please visit their GoFundMe page.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram

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