Four child flu deaths in Colorado underscore importance of vaccination
February 24, 2009
In light of infant deaths related to flu in Colorado this winter, the county nursing office is reminding citizens that children’s flu shots are still available.
“It’s still not too late to immunize children, especially those that may not have received their second dose of flu vaccine that require a second dose,” said Brene Belew-LaDue, RN, Grand County’s Public Health Director.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced that four Colorado children have died from complications of influenza so far this flu season.
This number of pediatric flu deaths is higher than seen during the past four flu seasons in which, on average, two pediatric flu deaths were reported.
Colorado is one of 16 states that reported widespread flu activity in the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending Feb. 7.
“Child deaths from flu are especially tragic since they often are preventable,” said Ken Gershman, chief of the Communicable Disease Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Three of the flu victims were toddlers and one was an infant, the department reported.
Two of the children were partially vaccinated – having had one of two recommended flu vaccinations – while the other two children were not vaccinated.
At least two of the children had other serious underlying medical conditions that preceded the flu infection.
So far this year, the department has confirmed a total of 152 hospitalizations from flu.
Last year, when flu hospitalizations peaked in late February, the state recorded a total of 1,004 flu-related hospitalizations.
In an effort to better protect the public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all eligible children ages 6 months through 18 years receive the influenza vaccine.
Prior to this season, the recommendation was for ages 6 months to 6 years.
Complicating this year’s fight against flu is the fact that a common drug used to combat flu symptoms, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), is not effective against the predominant flu strain circulating this year, according to the department.
Every year in the United States, on average, 5-20 percent of the population gets the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and about 36,000 people die from flu.
Some people, such as the elderly, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk for serious flu complications.
“The single best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu is to get the flu vaccine and it’s not too late,” said Gershman. “With flu season well underway in Colorado, the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine may offer some advantages over the flu shot among people aged 2 to 49. Parents should discuss the best option for them and their children with their family doctor.”
The flu season typically peaks in January, February or March. This year, the number of flu-related hospitalizations continues to increase, indicating the state likely has not reached its flu peak.
The Colorado Immunization Program has assured that local public health agencies will have influenza vaccine available.
For flu vaccine clinic information,. visit http://www.immunizecolorado.com or call 1-877-462-2911.