State Health officials are sadden by the deaths of two Minnesota children from influenza. Still, they have no explanation for the odd cluster of fatalities.
“It's just maybe a matter of bad luck that we happen to have three of the 13 deaths to date in the United States,” commented Deputy State Epidemiologist Richard Danila.
It would seem the ultimate bad luck and yet, there is the fact that as Danila points out, “None of these children were vaccinated.” That is particularly tragic since the H1 influenza virus that led to each child’s untimely death was included in the recipe for this year’s flu vaccine.
Despite the death of an otherwise healthy eight-year-old Ramsey County boy in January, it had seemed to be a slow flu season. Some parents had rushed to have their children inoculated after news broke of the boy’s death, but Danila says the majority of children in the state have not been vaccinated.
“In Minnesota, we have noticed just in the last 2 or 3 weeks that we have a lot of activity picking up in children. We have seen 85 percent of our outbreaks in schools have been in the last three weeks.”
In fact, there have been 224 influenza school outbreaks this year, as opposed to just 199 last season. State Health officials say the three children all had the same type of virus, but no other connections. Two 8-year olds were metro area residents, while the third was a 17 month old in greater Minnesota.
“There were no links between any of these three children,” Danila insisted. “They were not in the same school system, let alone school. They didn't know each other. There's absolutely no links whatever between the three.”
Parents are urged to remind their children to wash their hands frequently with soap and water and sneeze into their elbows, rather than onto their hands. They are also urging that children be vaccinated.
The state has a surplus of vaccine which cannot be used next year. It can still provide protection, since it is believed that the flu season is far from over.
KARE 11 and Cub Foods are holding weekend Flu Fighter clinics.
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