Covering Louisiana

Feb 7, 2014 10:00 PM by Dave Fields

DHH: Flu in La. this season kills 53 including four kids, still going

According to a Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two new flu deaths attributed to children have occurred within the last week, bringing the total number of pediatric, flu-related deaths this flu season to four.

The total number of confirmed flu-related deaths in Louisiana since Oct. 1, 2013, stands at 53.

State law requires hospitals and health care professionals report all flu deaths in children to DHH, which must report those deaths to the CDC. The latest pediatric deaths are from Southeast and Southwest Louisiana. The two previous deaths were in Northwest and Southeast Louisiana.

According to DHH, H1N1 carries a higher risk of fatalities among younger people.

One of the most recent flu-related, pediatric deaths can be attributed to Youngsville teen, Hunter Thibodeaux, who died of Type A Flu, which health officials said most likely is H1N1. The strain carries symptoms like body aches, coughing, congestion, fever and nausea.

Hunter's family reported that he was taken to a hospital after he began to experience coughing and other symptoms. The family said Hunter was sent home with a Z-pack. However, Hunter's symptoms worsened, landing him back in the hospital the very next day.

"Within 24 hours his chest filled up with fluid," the boy's father said, noting that his son had to be air-lifted to Le Boheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

Hunter ultimately was diagnosed with the flu and pneumonia. On January 25th, after being on life support for 48 hours, Hunter was dead.

The report notes that "hundreds of people die in Louisiana each year without ever being diagnosed with the flu or from other conditions made worse by influenza." Therefore, taking into account these unreported deaths, the number of actual flu-related deaths in Louisiana likely is much higher.

The DHH report indicates that "H1N1 is the dominant strain of flu that is circulating right now" and that all flu strains ultimately may turn deadly.

The report also suggests that flu activity statewide remains "widespread and high" and that this year's flu season is expected to persist until April.

CDC estimates that since October 2013, there may have been as many as 520,000 flu cases in Louisiana, 5,200 flu hospitalizations, and 600 deaths caused by influenza.

The flu shot is your best protection against the flu. It's not too late to get a flu vaccination. Once you get the shot, it takes about 7-10 days to be fully protected. This year's vaccination will protect against the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus.

The CDC recommends everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. Medical studies show getting the flu vaccine has proven to be very safe and effective in preventing people from catching the flu. While everyone should get a flu vaccine, vaccination is especially critical.

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