Idaho Department of Health & Welfare officials are encouraging people to take precautions after at least two Idaho children, and possibly a third, died from influenza-related causes.
Officials say one child lived in northern Idaho and the other lived in eastern Idaho. And they are currently investigating the death of a third child who is also from the eastern part of the state.
“Our hearts go out to the families of these children. 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,” Dr. Christine Hahn, medical director for the department’s Division of Public Health, said in a news release.
Officials say it’s too early to predict the severity of the influenza season, but data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate it started earlier than usual and influenza B seems to be circulating more than influenza A. The B strains may also be impacting children more severely than adults, they said.
One of the eastern Idaho children affected, Liliana Isabel Juson Clark, died just four days before her 14th birthday.
According to a GoFundMe page set up to assist Clark’s family with funeral costs, her illness started off typically enough when Lily’s family brought her to an urgent care with a sore throat and fever on Dec. 27.
She returned home after being given Tamiflu medication by an urgent care professional.
On Dec 30, Clark was back at the clinic. Her symptoms had worsened, leaving her with breathing difficulties.
Immediately, the urgent care called an ambulance to rush Clark to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls after seeing her oxygen level was at just 60 percent.
An oxygen mask didn’t seem to help Clark’s breathing, and medical professionals sedated her and placed a breathing tube down her throat.
EIRMC doctors determined that Clark had developed pneumonia and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. These illnesses had “spread throughout and taken over her body,” according to the GoFundMe page.
Clark also had swelling and bleeding in her brain at this time, the page said. She was eventually moved from Idaho Falls to the Salt Lake City Primary Children’s Hospital. There, tests revealed Clark’s brain had no activity.
“Lily had never woke up since being sedated a week prior,” according to the GoFundMe page.
Clark died Sunday, “surrounded by her loving parents and family,” her obituary said.
Clark was a straight-A student, played the violin, wanted to be a model and photographer in the future, and loved taking nature photos, especially of sunsets, according to her obituary.
“Lily had the power to make anyone smile and laugh at her silly dances... She is our sweet Lily, beautiful inside and out. The world is a poorer place without her, but heaven gained a beautiful angel,” her obituary said.
Health & Welfare officials say the influenza-related deaths involving children are unusual since such deaths are more commonly seen among older adults.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted they have seen more pediatric influenza deaths than usual by this time of year,” Hahn said in the news release, adding that influenza illnesses have been increasing in the state and around the country. “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.”
Officials encourage those 6-months of age and older to get a flu vaccine each year.
“The flu vaccine is particularly important if you have a higher risk for severe illness and complications from influenza,” according to the news release.
That includes: adults 65 years of age and older; pregnant women; young children and those with certain neurologic conditions; and people with asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, a history of stroke, or a compromised immune system, officials said.
“Consult with a healthcare provider to determine which vaccine might be right for you, based on your medical history and age,” the news release states.
Officials also encourage people to do their part to keep germs from spreading by staying home when they are sick, covering their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and washing their hands frequently.