Health experts now report 21 flu-related deaths in Idaho
Public health officials in Idaho are reporting two influenza-associated deaths among children younger than 18, bringing the total flu-related deaths to 21 since the start of the flu season on Oct. 1 of last year. The 19 adult deaths reported all were individuals older than 50, said Idaho Health and Welfare spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr.
“Our sympathies are with the families of all the victims, and especially with those grieving the loss of a child. Although influenza has hit the older population particularly hard this season, these pediatric deaths are a tragic reminder that influenza can be a very serious infection for all age groups,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “Influenza activity is still high, and as long as the virus is circulating in our communities, the best protection for you and your family is to get the vaccine. It is not too late to get the shot.”
“Vaccination is recommended for everyone older than 6 months of age,” Forbing-Orr said. “There is still plenty of pediatric vaccine for those who want it. Adults, however, may want to consider calling ahead to make sure vaccine is available, or find a clinic atwww.flu.gov .”
Experts said influenza can cause severe illness, especially for certain high-risk groups such as those who are pregnant; those who have diabetes, asthma and heart disease; those with compromised immune systems; and the elderly. People who are at higher risk for complications from influenza should consult with their healthcare provider within the first 48 hours of illness to see if the use of antiviral medications would be right for them.
More severe symptoms that should prompt an immediate healthcare evaluation (either by your healthcare provider or at an emergency room) include:
• Fever above 100° F
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish or gray skin color
• Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach area
• Sudden dizziness
• Dehydration, not urinating enough or no tears when crying
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Being very sleepy or confused, or not waking up or interacting
• Being so irritable that nothing makes a child feel better
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and more severe cough
In addition to getting vaccinated, health officials said there are other things you can do to protect yourself and your family against serious respiratory illnesses. These include:
• Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
• Covering your cough and sneeze.
• Avoiding others who appear ill.
• Staying home if you or your children are sick to avoid infecting those around you.
For more information about influenza, you are urged to contact your local public health district or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza webpage at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm