GREENVILLE - A 37-year-old associate pastor who counseled troubled youths and who "laughed and made everyone laugh" may be Greenville County's first swine-flu fatality.
Kevin Knight died Wednesday, a day after his birthday, said Jerry Madden, senior pastor at Knight's church, Praise Cathedral in Greer.
He was diagnosed with H1N1, also called swine flu, Oct. 12, and hospitalized three days later, Madden said. He developed double pneumonia and died of complications Wednesday, he said.
"It began with feeling bad, the typical flu, chills and aches, and then it progressed," Madden said. "He was on a ventilator since Saturday."
Never miss a local story.
Health officials couldn't confirm whether Knight died of swine flu or whether he was the county's first death from the virus, citing confidentiality reasons. It is not known whether he had any underlying medical condition that may have contributed to his death.
For the past four years, Knight worked as the media and technical director at the church, taking care of all audio, video and lighting for church services as well as maintaining its Web site, Madden said. He also helped counsel troubled youths.
"He was the life of the party, a fun-loving guy who laughed and made everyone laugh. I haven't met anyone that didn't like him," Madden said.
Knight and his wife, Joanna, moved to Greer from Kentucky, Madden said. They have two sons, 5 and 2.
"They're doing as well as they can," Madden said. "Our focus now is on providing for them. They're a part of our church."
A 12-year-old boy from the Midlands, an 11-year-old girl from Sumter County and a 23-year-old Fort Jackson soldier were the first to succumb to the virus in South Carolina.
As of Oct. 17, there had been 16 deaths and 456 hospitalizations from swine flu in South Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Because it is so widespread, the H1N1 virus is considered pandemic. Its symptoms are the same as seasonal flu, and most people have experienced mild illness, according to the CDC.
Seasonal flu hospitalizes 200,000 and kills 36,000 each year, typically the elderly. Swine flu appears to be disproportionately targeting people 24 and younger.
Upstate health departments are set to begin swine flu clinics next month.
Madden said he has talked to his congregants about H1N1, about hand washing and proper cough etiquette, and advised them to use good judgment about coming to church functions.
"The greater risk of this is for people who have other (health) issues," he said. "I've known several people with H1N1 who had it for two to three days and were fine."
An ordained minister in the Church of God, Knight earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Lee University in Tennessee, according to the church.
Madden said the 2,200-member church will set up a memorial education fund for Knight's children.
"We're grieving. He was a part of our family," Madden said. "However, we are confident we know where he is - with the Lord. And we're at peace with that."
Knight's funeral will be Sunday at 3 p.m. at the church.