Authorities urge vaccines after suburban girl dies from flu

Posted1/9/2019 1:00 AM
  • Doctors and government officials are urging parents to make sure their kids get flu vaccines now if they haven't yet.

    Doctors and government officials are urging parents to make sure their kids get flu vaccines now if they haven't yet. Associated Press

Health authorities are urging people to get flu shots for themselves and their children after the Kane County Health Department reported a child died of complications from the flu in mid-December.

The 3-year-old girl died Dec. 21 at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, according to Kane County Coroner Rob Russell.

She was one of 13 pediatric deaths nationwide this flu season, and the second to die in December, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Children are especially vulnerable to the flu and especially after the age of 6 months, said Dr. Nadia Quereshi, a specialist in immunizations and pediatric infectious diseases with Loyola University Medical Center.

Those 6 months and younger typically still have antibodies passed on by their mothers. But after that, it can take children up to five years to develop a strong immune system that can handle the flu, she said.

The CDC reports children are especially vulnerable to complications from the flu, including viral or bacterial pneumonia, brain disease, seizures, blood infections and ear infections.

"It is still not too late to get a vaccine," Quereshi said.

In adults, it takes about two weeks after a vaccine to achieve immunity. Adults get one shot; children get a shot, then a booster a month later. They can get the shot as young as 6 months.

The vaccine is especially important to children who were born prematurely or who have lung disease or asthma, Quereshi said. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for children who have neurological disorders or are obese.

Both say pregnant women should be vaccinated, and Quereshi recommends that anyone who is taking care of babies be immunized.

Coroner Rob Russell said the girl who died was ill for about two days before her parents brought her to the hospital. She seemed to be improving but then fell unconscious and stopped breathing. The girl did not have pre-existing medical conditions, he said

Quereshi said there are warning signs of serious trouble, besides fever and unproductive cough. The child may not act normal and might stop eating, breathe faster, have abnormal coloring, be lethargic, or have a dry diaper due to dehydration, she said.

Both Illinois deaths were associated with H1N1 viruses, according to the CDC.

This year's trivalent vaccine in the United States includes an A/Michigan H1N1-like virus, an A/Singapore H3N2-like virus, and a B/Colorado-like virus. A four-strain vaccine also contains a B/Phuket virus.

Vaccines are not 100 percent effective at preventing flu, but those vaccinated often have fewer symptoms and complications, according to the CDC.

The CDC designates October through March as flu season. Quereshi said the flu started late last season, and the season lasted in to May.

During the 2017-18 season, the CDC reported, 185 children died of flu complications.

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