12-year-old Milwaukee girl's death marks first pediatric flu case in state

A 12-year-old Milwaukee girl's death last week marked the first flu-related pediatric death in Wisconsin.

The girl was admitted to Children's Hospital Christmas Day. She was treated for a week before she died Jan. 1.  It's the first pediatric flu-related death in Milwaukee since 2009.

\"Unfortunately, death gets our attention,\" City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker said Wednesday.   \"We don't know underlying conditions surrounding this particular case, but we do know that 24,000 people succumb to influenza-related disease every single year,\" Baker said.

The girl was a foster child under the care of a woman living in a north-side home. CBS-58 spoke briefly with someone at the door, but they would not comment to media.

\"This is a particularly virulent strand of influenza that's circulating and it's a difficult time for our community,\" Baker said.

Baker couldn't say if the girl was vaccinated. Doctors say it's rare for a child to receive treatment and die from the flu without previous health issues.

\"Was this death or any death preventable?\" Baker said. \"Using the best practice available, we can minimize loss of life.\"

Molina Health Care of Wisconsin Medical Director Dr. Raymond Zastrow says hospitals are seeing a vast uptick in patients with the flu, including about 360 in Milwaukee alone. Most of those cases are adults over 50 years old.

\"[This case] should kind of be a wake up call to us all,\" Zastrow said.

The medical director says this season's flu strain can be devastating because the virus mutated from what scientists working on a vaccine predicted.

\"Even when it's an imperfect vaccine, as it seems to be this year, it still imparts some partial protection,\" Zastrow said. \"One should always take the flu vaccine if offered.\"

Zastrow says hand sanitizers help stop the flu from spreading. Everyone, sick or not, should wash their hands frequently, cough into your elbow and stay home from school or work if you feel ill. But even if you've made it this far without getting sick, it's best to get the shot.

\"For that mother, who is expecting a baby, or for that child who is under six months of age, we need to think about them,\" Commissioner Baker said.

The Milwaukee Health Department keeps a list of sites where you can get a flu vaccine. Baker says the department can help you find low-cost or free vaccines if money is an issue. You can call the Health Department at 414-286-3521.

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