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The flu has taken the lives of 2 Idaho children -- and now, maybe, a 3rd

Idaho Statesman - 1/11/2020

Jan. 11--At least two children in Idaho have died from influenza-related causes, according to public health officials.

One child who died lived in northern Idaho and the other lived in eastern Idaho, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said in a news release Friday.

The department and local public health districts are looking into whether a third child, also from eastern Idaho, died of flu-related causes.

EastIdahoNews.com reported this week that 13-year-old Liliana "Lily" Isabel Juson Clark, of Idaho Falls, died Jan. 5 of complications from the flu. The report said she had developed pneumonia and MRSA. It is unclear whether she is one of the children referenced in the department's news release.

Most flu-related deaths in Idaho strike older adults, the department said. Only one child died of flu-related causes in Idaho during the past five years, the department said.

"Our hearts go out to the families of these children," Dr. Christine Hahn, medical director for the department's Division of Public Health, said in the news release. "This flu strain appears to be impacting some children in Idaho heavily, and we want to make sure that Idahoans are taking precautions to stay safe this flu season."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen more pediatric influenza deaths than usual this flu season, Hahn said in the release.

While it's too soon to know whether the 2019-2020 flu season is worse than previous seasons, CDC flu data show it began earlier than usual and that it's mostly the influenza B strain, which "may be impacting children more severely than adults," the department said.

"If you or your children are sick with the flu, contact your medical provider; there are medications that can reduce the severity and duration of the illness," Hahn said.

The annual flu vaccine can protect children and adults from the flu, the department said.

Public health officials also recommend seeking medical attention, staying home if you're sick, and covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.

They also recommend washing your hands frequently.

A recent study found that hand sanitizer is less effective against the flu virus than washing your hands.

Idaho public health officials don't know whether the children who died this season had received the flu vaccine, because that information isn't reported to the state, spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr said.

"We gather flu-related deaths from information on the death certificates," she said. "The flu vaccine is still the best protection against the flu, but it's a good idea to seek medical treatment and anti-viral medication if you think you have the flu and are in one of (the) high-risk groups."

The department said certain people have a higher risk of flu complications. They include:

-- Adults 65 years and older

-- Pregnant women

-- Young children

-- People with asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease or a history of stroke

-- People with compromised immune systems

-- Children with certain neurologic conditions

"The flu vaccine is particularly important if you have a higher risk for severe illness and complications from influenza," the department said. "Consult with a healthcare provider to determine which vaccine might be right for you, based on your medical history and age."

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(c)2020 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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