Health Department reports pediatric flu death in Lee County

BY MICHAELA GIBSON MORRIS

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Influenza has taken the life of a child in Lee County, the state health department reported Tuesday.

It is the third influenza death in the state in 2008. Two other deaths in DeSoto and Madison counties have been reported previously.

“Right now, it’s not unusual,” said Liz Sharlot, Mississippi State Department of Health communications director. “But certainly, one death is too many.”

Because of privacy rules, no information was released on the name, age, residence or date of death. The pediatric category covers any child under 18.

This year, the health department stepped up reporting of pediatric flu deaths.

“Now we get this information right away,” Sharlot said.

Children under 5 and those with chronic illness are among the most vulnerable to complications from the flu.

Nationally, it appears that pediatric flu hospitalizations are slightly higher than last year, but not as bad as the 2005-2006 season.

Centers for Disease Control said it had informal reports of five pediatric deaths around the nation for the week ending Feb. 2; those numbers will be formally included in the report which will be released Friday.

Area physicians, along with Mississippi State University and University of Mississippi, have been reporting a heavy influx of flu cases over the past few weeks. However, the Daily Journal has received no reports of school closures.

“This is peak flu season,” Sharlot said, however, it is impossible to know if we’ve already seen the worst or if it is yet to come.

The flu has been considered widespread geographically in Mississippi for the past two weeks.

The state uses a network of about 40 sentinel physicians who keep count of influenza-like cases and send samples to the state lab for testing.

Flu shots are still available for those who would like one.

CDC testing on the circulating strains of the flu shows a less than ideal match-up with the three strains included in the flu shot. Only one of the flu shot strains is a perfect match, but the shot does likely provide some cross protection.

Contact Daily Journal health reporter
Michaela Gibson Morris at 678-1599
or michaela.morris@djournal.com.