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Children are dying from the flu

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

November 26, 2003 11:25 PM EST

ATLANTA - Four youngsters have died of the flu in Colorado since last week in what U.S. health officials say could foretell a severe flu season for the country.

The children were 21 months old, 2, 8 and 15, and their deaths startled some health officials because they happened so close together and so early in the season. Last year, Colorado had four child deaths over the course of the flu season, which normally peaks in January and February and runs through April.

Even before the deaths, there were signs that this could be an especially bad flu season. Some parts of the country - particularly Colorado, Texas and Nevada - have been hit hard a month earlier than usual.

Also, the flu strain that doctors are seeing is the H3N2 Fujian, part of a class of flu viruses that caused severe outbreaks in the United States in the 1990s.

"Doctors across the city are saying they've never seen a flu season like this," said Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health in Denver. He said nearly 4,000 cases of flu in adults and children have been reported in Colorado so far this fall.

The four youngsters are the only flu deaths so far in Colorado. However, flu-stricken children in both Texas and Colorado are being kept alive on ventilators in hospitals. And some schools in both states have seen high absentee rates or have closed to stop the spread of the flu.

The Colorado cases have prompted concern among parents who are rushing their children to the clinic for shots. Arvada Pediatric Associates has already given 862 shots in the past month, said administrator John Gordon. That contrasts with 745 shots given in the entire fourth quarter of 2002.

"I don't know if it's in my head, but she's been sick, and after watching the news, I realized she had some of the same symptoms," said Dennis Shing, who became worried about his 5-year-old daughter, Emma, after seeing news reports about the four children. "It's kind of scary."

The parents of one of the flu victims, 8-year-old Joseph Williams, went on TV with their story Tuesday night in hopes other parents would take sick children to the doctor.

"It happened so quick and so sudden," Scott Williams said. "He was fine. He wasn't even that sick."

"He just flat-lined and he looked at me," Carrieann Williams said. "Nobody could believe it happened."

Health experts said it will take time to determine whether this flu season will be especially dangerous for children.

"This is something that we are studying and are certainly are concerned about," said Dr. Scott Harper, infectious-diseases physician for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "But it's likely this is something that's been going on for years and we just have not recognized it before."

The deaths in Colorado are "a little bit out of the ordinary," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of Vanderbilt Medical Center's department of preventive medicine in Nashville, Tenn. "I think it's a manifestation of this H3N2 strain which causes more serious disease."

The deaths underscore an often-overlooked fact: Flu can be deadly in children.

Each year, an estimated 36,000 Americans - mainly the elderly - die from the flu. Health officials do not know how many children die, because states do not require doctors to report influenza cases.

"In general, people look as influenza as a benign illness like a common cold when in fact it's a serious illness," Harper said. The flu can cause pneumonia and other respiratory problems, heart failure and heart muscle inflammation in infants.

Last month, a CDC advisory panel recommended that children 6 months to 23 months old receive flu shots, since this age group has as great a risk of hospitalization from the flu as the elderly.

The Fujian strain - which originated in Fujian province, China - was not known when this year's flu vaccine was developed, so this year's formula does not exactly match the flu virus now circulating. But the vaccine will still help prevent the flu and its complications, Schaffner said.

Health experts continue to recommend that people get their flu shots, particularly infants and the elderly.
post #2 of 8
The news tonight added two more children to the list of child deaths. This is so scary, my son had the flu a couple of weeks ago. I sure hope that this nasty bug doesn't take any more lives, it is a wicked strain. My son still isn't up to par but we are working on it by forcing fluids and rest.
post #3 of 8
This has obviously been all over the news here in Colorado, where the 4 deaths occurred. My coworker and her daughter have had the "official" flu, and it is nasty stuff. This isn't the typical stomach flu - it is a resperatory illness. Kim's neighbor was in the hospital with it because it developed into pneumonia. Kim has been coughing and worn out for almost 3 weeks, and was out for almost a week with it. Her daughter missed a full week of school, and had up to 104 temperature. Having seen it first hand, it is even scarier than what the news reports.
post #4 of 8
I recently posted an article about the flu too, but it didn't scare me nearly as much as this article does.

The four youngsters are the only flu deaths so far in Colorado. However, flu-stricken children in both Texas and Colorado are being kept alive on ventilators in hospitals
Heidi or Corina, We haven't had this flu where I live yet. So I was wondering if you heard any news reports about whether or not some of these kids might have had other health problems that compromised their immune systems?
post #5 of 8
Lorie, according to an article on www.9news.com (one of our local channels), two of the children, the 15 year old and the 2 year old, did have underlying medical issues, but the other two did not - the 8 year old and the 21 month old. Here's the story:

FORT COLLINS - A father in Wellington is urging other parents to take their children’s symptoms seriously, after his 8-year-old son died from the flu. Four children in Colorado have died of the flu this year.

Eight-year-old Joseph Williams died at Poudre Valley Hospital Monday from complications of the flu, Larimer County health officials said Tuesday. Wellington is near Fort Collins.

The coroner's office confirmed Joseph Williams died from respiratory failure with influenza type A infection.

"It happened so quick and so sudden. He was fine. He wasn't even that sick," Joseph's father, Scott Williams, said Tuesday. “He didn’t have a fever, a headache or any other flu symptoms, just as he called it, a ‘tummy ache.’"

More tests are being done to see if there were any other underlying health problems, but the health department said Williams appeared to be healthy before contracting the flu. He'd been in school last Friday and was otherwise okay.

“If your kids even act sick, take them in to get checked,†Williams urged.

Eyestone Elementary School sent home a letter informing parents that a student had died. The letter also mentioned that there hasn't been a flu outbreak at the school.

Children's Hospital in Denver reported Tuesday that it’s had three children die in the last week from flu-like illnesses. Two of the children, ages 15 and 2, had underlying medical conditions, while the third one, who was 21-months-old, did not.

Across the state, there were 3,399 confirmed flu cases as of Tuesday, with countless more unreported. The number is 718 more than all cases reported last year.

Labs are testing to identify specific strains of flu going around. The Centers for Disease Control says up to 78 percent of the type A infections are from a mutated form of the Panama flu called the Fijian flu. It's not part of the vaccine recipe.

The incubation period for influenza can be anywhere from one to four days. You can be contagious with the flu starting one day before you have symptoms and five or more days after getting sick.

Children can be contagious 10 days or longer after showing symptoms.

Children are hit especially hard because their immune systems aren't as well equipped as adults. If a child has difficulty breathing, a change in skin color, lethargy, a fever over 103, or difficulty drinking, call a doctor right away.

Health experts say the best defense besides a flu shot is to keep your children hydrated. Also, make sure they wash their hands often and get plenty of rest.
post #6 of 8
Don't the schools immunize the kids anymore? I remember well how we all had to get flu shots etc.. during school hours when I was growing up. I remember getting my polio shot even! I still have the scar.
post #7 of 8
As far as I know they don't. At least that's what I'm getting from the news stories, especially when you see the pediatricians booked solid with parents wanting to get their kids flu shots. I would imagine that the liability would be too much for schools now-days.
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
My 22 year old Nephew has Pnemonia pretty bad and he
went to the Doctors and they put him on Zithromax
and some other meds...hopefully he starts feeling better soon
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