Influenza Cause of Death in Four Colorado Children
Since mid-January, four Colorado children have died from complications related to the influenza virus. In two of the cases, the children received the recommended vaccinations, and in two cases the children were not vaccinated against the flu.
This makes it the worst influenza season for children in Colorado in five years. In 2003, twelve Colorado children died of complications related to the flu.
Two of the children lived in the Denver area and two of the children resided on the Western Slope. In at least two of the cases, the children had other serious medical conditions that may have affected their resistance to infection.
The first reported case of influenza in Colorado this season was reported in an adult male in El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs, on October 21, 2008. Since, cases of the flu had been off to a slow start until mid-January. In last year's influenza season, El Paso County had the highest rate of flu infections in the state - 20 percent higher than the statewide average. The 2007-2008 flu season was the worst in four years, with 152 people becoming sick enough with the virus to be hospitalized and tested. Last year, 40 percent of hospitalized cases in El Paso county were in children age 17 or younger.
Unlike with other illnesses, the symptoms of influenza appear abruptly. H1N1 is the prevailing strain this year and the influenza vaccine is effective against it. Public health officials report that it is not too late to still get an influenza vaccine although the vaccine takes about three weeks to induce maximum immunity.
Typical flu symptoms include fever, headache, body aches and sore throat. Children suspected of having the flu should be taken to their physicians or health clinics for nasal swabs, which are used in the rapid Flu test, used in diagnosis. Children with flu should be kept home with bed rest and adequate fluids for hydration. If fever does not respond to treatment, a physician should be consulted. Most fatal complications of influenza are caused by co-existing bacterial infections, particularly bacterial pneumonia.
Statistics from the 2006-2007 flu season show that fatalities related to the flu in children were of rapid onset. 45% of the children died within 72 hours of their first symptoms and 75% died within a week, while 43% died either at home or in an emergency room. Bacterial infection superimposed on flu was not the only cause of death; children also died from seizures, encephalitis, and shock. But it played an important role: Coinfections were involved in 6%, 15%, and 34% in the three successive seasons ending in 2007, representing a fivefold increase. The increase was primarily due to infection with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus: There were one staph infection in 2004-05, 3 in 2005-06, and 22 in 2006-07, and 64% of the staph infections were drug-resistant.