A 4-year-old girl has become the first child in the state of New Jersey to die from contracting the flu as mortality rates continue to rise in what has been a nasty flu season. The girl, who has not been named, reportedly died in December and had not received the flu shot.
At this point, at least 37 children have died from flu-related complications this season, but experts predict the pediatric death toll could climb to as high as 150 by the end of March. According to the CDC, there has been a total of 11,965 confirmed cases of the flu between October 25 and January 20.
Experts estimate that as many as 50,000 people are likely to have died from the flu once the season comes to an end. Those who are eligible are encouraged to get a flu shot right away. But many of those who have taken the shot still contracted the flu – so what difference does it make?
“Getting the flu shot can help prevent the flu and reduce the intensity of the illness if one comes down with it – highly recommended to anyone without a contraindication to receive it!” said Dr Brian Secemsky, an internist at One Medical in San Francisco, as reported by Daily Mail.
Lily Kershaw, 5, was the first child to die of the flu. She passed away on January 22 in Nebraska. An autopsy report concluded that Lily Kershaw had influenza and succumbed to a related infection, according to Platte County Attorney Carl Hart.
“Lily was a smart, kind, and loving little girl. She had a passion for learning and always shared her big smile or a hug with anyone in need of one,’’ read a Facebook post from Twin River kindergarten, where Lily attended. “Please keep the Kershaw family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Another child, 12-year-old Florida native Dylan Winnik, died of the fly on January 23. Dylan had been complaining of chest pain and fever. However, he started to feel better. When his parents took his temperature, they found it was normal at 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Two hours later, he was dead.
“Don’t mess around with the flu,” Dylan’s stepfather, Mike Medwin, told NBC affiliate WPTV. “It’s not going to somebody else. It can happen right in your neighborhood. Right in your name. It happened to us. Lighting struck.” A GoFundMe page has been set up for funeral and memorial expenses in honor of Dylan.
The campaign has raised almost $30,000.
“I want to take a moment to address everybody that has donated, or reached out with thoughts and prayers for the family. You have lifted us up during this time of need. There is no other way to describe it. Today we celebrated Dylan’s life, and without the love that poured in from everybody, it would not have been possible to have such a beautiful ceremony,” Medwin updated on the page earlier this week.
“The service was unbelievably beautiful. We saw countless family and friends come with us to say goodbye to Dylan. You could never imagine how much love the community poured into the celebration. Thank you, thank you, thank you, your support and love has come thru to transform the worst disaster of our lives into a ceremony where everybody that Dylan’s life touched was able to celebrate the joy of his beautiful life.”
An 8-year-old Alabama girl also fell victim to the flu, passing away on January 16. Zainab Momin was staying home due to the bad weather when her parents rushed her to the hospital with a high fever and flu-like symptoms.
She died later that night.
Zainab was a third grader at Pike Road Elementary School in Alabama.
“It’s a really hard time especially in the morning whenever the students first see each other and see the empty seat and some of them will be hearing about it for the first time. To lose someone so young is incredibly difficult,” Principal Ryan Kendall said, as reported by ABC 13.
“Zainab was a delightful little girl. She had just a wonderful smile and a great attitude. Our school family here is devastated.”
The flu causes an estimated 9 million to 35 million illnesses, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths in the United States in a typical year, according to the CDC. While this year’s numbers are no more severe than usual, the flu has seemed to strike across the entire US, instead of being focused on one state.
“It’s a robust flu season,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, as reported by USA Today.
Remember to wash your hands, and if you are sick with the flu – stay home!