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Flu Kills Child in Northern Kentucky

A Northern Kentucky child has died from complications of the flu, the first death reported to the Northern Kentucky Health Department this flu season.

The child had a chronic health problem that may have made him/her more susceptible to flu.

“The loss of a child to the flu is heartbreaking, particularly around the holiday season. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “This is a reminder of just how serious influenza can be.”

WCPO reports that the child, a 6-year old boy, died in his father's arms in the waiting room after a long wait at St. Elizabeth Hospital's Florence location. The hospital previously issued a statement to area residents that wait times are abnormally long because of the high level of flu.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a total of 15 children had died from flu through December 20. The Northern Kentucky death is not included in this number, but will be in the coming weeks. Though it doesn’t track adult flu deaths nationwide, the CDC estimated 6.8 percent of all adult deaths were attributable to flu or pneumonia (a common complication of flu) for the week ending December 20. The Northern Kentucky pediatric flu death is the first in Kentucky; Ohio had reported four pediatric flu deaths through December 21, including one in Cincinnati. No adult flu deaths have been confirmed in Northern Kentucky to date.

In the 2013-2014 flu season, five adults in Northern Kentucky died from the flu. The last pediatric flu death in Northern Kentucky was during the 2012-2013 flu season.

To date, more than 1,200 cases of flu have been reported in Northern Kentucky. Statewide, Kentucky is reporting widespread flu activity, meaning that outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like cases and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state with recent laboratory evidence of influenza in the state.

“We are seeing a very high number of flu cases, particularly in school-age children and the elderly,” said Saddler. “Unfortunately, the predominant strain of flu circulating in Northern Kentucky appears to be one that is not matched to this season’s vaccine. This means that not only will we have a high number of cases, but we are also facing a strain that has historically been associated with more severe illness and higher mortality, according to the CDC.”

To prevent the spread of the flu, the CDC recommends that individuals:

·       --Get a flu vaccine if you haven’t done so already. Antibodies created through vaccination with one influenza virus can offer some protection against different influenza viruses (this is called cross-protection). A person who is vaccinated is likely to have less severe illness as well.

·       --Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

·       --Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

·       --Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

·       --Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you become ill with symptoms of flu, including fever and fatigue, contact your health care provider to see if it is appropriate to use anti-viral medications. Certain symptoms signal a more serious infection and require immediate attention. In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • --Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • --Bluish skin color
  • --Not drinking enough fluids
  • --Not waking up or not interacting
  • --Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • --Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • --Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • --Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • --Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • --Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • --Severe or persistent vomiting

For more information on flu, please visit http://www.nkyhealth.org/Seasonal-Flu.aspx.