Aretha Franklin Speculates That Prince May Have Died Of The Zika Virus

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Though Prince had reportedly been battling the flu, the exact cause of his death is still unknown.

That didn't stop soul legend Aretha Franklin from offering her speculation about the cause of his untimely demise during an appearance on MSNBC on Thursday. The singer offered her opinion that Prince might have fallen victim to the Zika virus. Franklin made the comment while discussing the iconic rocker’s sudden death with anchor Brian Williams.

She opened her remarks by talking about Prince’s commitment to working in the studio.

“They’re saying flu-like symptoms,” Franklin told Williams during the broadcast. “I’m wondering if it has anything to do with this Zika virus.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “the most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.” The disease, spread by a certain type of mosquito, triggered a global health panic earlier this year.

While Prince was said to be battling flu-like symptoms over the last week, it should be noted that the Zika virus has similar symptoms but it’s rare that the disease results in hospitalization, let alone death.

But before you rush to judgment against Aretha or anyone saying the flu might have caused Prince's death, remember that it's totally possible. The 2009 pandemic strain of the influenza A virus has recently been recurring in the Northern Hemisphere. The CDC says that 61% of those hospitalized for the flu last year were adults 18 to 64. In previous seasons, the dominance of the H3N2 strain resulted in only 35% of hospitalizations coming from the same age group.

Flu strains killing the young or middle aged do so due to something called a cytokine storm. An overblown response to a relatively minor pathogen can cause sufferers to undergo severe lung inflammation and flooding, commonly called pneumonia. The blood vessels could, similarly, leak digestive enzymes into the bloodstream, causing a secondary infection and death from septic shock.

Should pneumonia continue unchecked, it can progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a condition in which the lung's air sacs lose their ability to intake oxygen. Fluid-filled lungs become too stiff to expand for the oxygen, possibly causing depleted levels that result in the failure of the lungs or other organs, according to Forbes.

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