The Iowa Department of Public Health has confirmed the death of a child from the flu. Department medical director, Patricia Quinlisk, says the child did not appear to have any other medical problems that contributed to its death. “As far as we are aware, this child was otherwise healthy,” Quinlisk says.
Dr. Quinlisk says the department has also been notified of several probable adult deaths linked to the flu. “Very young children and the elderly are usually the ones that we hear about getting the flu and being hospitalized — however this year with the strain that we’re seeing right now the H1N1 — we are seeing children of school age and young adults being the ones that are primarily affected,” Quinlisk says. “In fact, those ages are contributing to over 50-percent of the hospitalizations that we are seeing around Iowa right now.”
The National Center for Disease control reports 4 child deaths from the flu this year. Quinlisk says the death of someone under the age of 18 from the flu does not happen very often in our state. “It’ve very rare for us to have a health child die of the flu, it’s very, very rare fortunately here in Iowa,” Quinlisk says.
She says the health department encourages parents to protect their kids by getting them a flu vaccination. “We do a pretty good job of getting our elderly vaccinated, but we do not do a very good job of getting the school-aged children and young adults vaccinated. And we just want to make sure that people understand that they are being hit very hard and that yes, even healthy school-age children or healthy young adults can get seriously ill with the flu — and rarely, unfortunately can die of this,” Quinlisk says. “And so, if those people have not gotten vaccinated yet, they do need to go and get the vaccine right now.”
Dr. Quinlisk expects the flu cases to continue to increase. “We’ve not hit a peak, we probably won’t hit our peak for another month. So if they would go in and get their vaccine right now, they would be protect for most of the flu season,” according to Quinlisk. The supply of flu vaccine is still good. “They shouldn’t have any trouble finding vaccine out there, though they may have to call around a few places to find out who has vaccine left,” Quinlisk says. “The good news is the vaccine that is out there in our communities do cover the strain that is causing people to get sick in Iowa right now.”
Department guidelines recommend all Iowans over six months of age should receive a flu vaccine this year and every year. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. The flu comes on suddenly and symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches. Illness typically lasts two to seven days.
For more information on the flu, go to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website at: www.idph.state.ia.us.