A North Tonawanda girl who died with the flu this week may have also suffered from another health complication.
“Preliminary testing has indicated that the recent death of a Niagara County child may be related to a combined influenza and serious bacterial infection,” the Niagara County Department of Health said in a news release late Wednesday.
The child, a 6-year-old student at St. Amelia School, died Monday evening after being diagnosed in Erie County. She was registered as the area’s first pediatric death from a flu-related cause this winter season, said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County health commissioner. Hers is one of a handful of flu-related pediatric deaths across the state.
The child’s name is being withheld at the family’s request.
The Niagara County Health Department stated the girl was previously healthy and had no underlying medical condition. Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton also said the child’s death does not mean the virus has gotten stronger.
Both the Niagara County and Erie County health commissioners expressed their condolences to the child’s family and encouraged residents to get flu vaccinations. Burstein noted that the flu season peaks in February and March locally.
“Influenza is a serious respiratory illness and, sadly, can have devastating consequences,” Burstein said. “I urge everyone who has not done so to get a flu shot. This is an effective way to stop the spread of influenza, and this unfortunate incident serves as a reminder that vaccinations are important.”
Health experts have said that while flu-related deaths do occur, pediatric deaths due to the flu virus are very rare, and most people recover at home without medical treatment. Those at greatest risk include pregnant women, children younger than 5, and those with other underlying or chronic health conditions.
Anyone experiencing severe or worsening symptoms should seek medical attention.
Because there have been a few reported pediatric deaths in New York State due to the flu and some doctor’s offices are reporting vaccine shortages, particularly for children, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order last month allowing pharmacists to administer the vaccine to children as well as adults.
Participating pharmacies may now administer the flu vaccine to children between the ages of 6 and 18 through at least Monday. The Niagara County Department of health also stated that it has the flu vaccine available for adults and children. The appointment line is (716) 278-1903.