State officials: 4 kids dead from flu

Published: Saturday, January 3, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 3, 2004 at 1:19 a.m.
ORLANDO - At least four Florida children have either died of flu-related illnesses this winter or lab specimens tested positive for the flu after their deaths, a state health department spokeswoman said Friday.
The first death reported was of a 13-year-old Jacksonville girl who died Dec. 17. The most recent was that of a 10-year-old girl from Port Orange, who died Tuesday.
Details on the other two deaths were not available because of confidentiality restrictions, said Lindsay Hodges, the department spokeswoman.
There may be more deaths, Hodges said, but the exact number may never be known because flu deaths are not required to be reported in Florida.
It wasn't until Dec. 19 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta asked states to report influenza-associated deaths for children younger than 18.
According to the CDC's latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released Wednesday, there have been 42 reported influenza-associated deaths among children younger than age 18 though Dec. 17 - and an unknown number of adult deaths - nationwide since October.
Seventeen of those children, or 40 percent, had underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma, seizure disorders and genetic disorders. Nine, or 21 percent of the 42 deaths, were of children 5 to 11 years old.
The 42 deaths reported by CDC did not include any Florida deaths, but the CDC figures were compiled before the state began asking county health officials to compile information on flu-related fatalities.
Although an average of 36,000 people of all ages die from the flu each year, flu-related deaths are relatively rare among children, health officials said.
For example, fewer than 200 children younger than 14 died of the flu or pneumonia in 2000, according to preliminary statistics from the federal government.

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