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1st pediatric flu death reported in Wisconsin, health officials confirm

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- A child is the latest victim of the flu season in Wisconsin.

The State Department of Health Services announced Friday, Jan. 10, there are 15 confirmed flu deaths, including a child. 

Health officials say the flu season began early. 

“It is a sad day when we report a death of a child from flu," said Tom Haupt, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Influenza Surveillance Coordinator.

State experts say the child was younger than 10 years old. He or she had moved from another state to southeast Wisconsin about two months ago. It's currently unknown if the child had been vaccinated.

“It was a very sudden onset from what we understand, and the child became very sick, very quickly, and passed away on the way to the hospital," he added.

The child had influenza B, a viral strand that normally arrives later in flu season. Experts says it's normally not deadly.

“Historically, influenza B is not as lethal, but again, when it’s circulating in conjunction with other viruses it can become very serious to those who are at risk of complications," Haupt said.

Leaders say both influenza B and influenza AH1 are in Wisconsin right now, but there are also other respiratory infections in circulation in the state.

Robin Komassa’s 10-month old son Colton just recovered from Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can be dangerous for infants.

“You could see, almost between his ribs, his breathing was shallow and very rapid," Komassa said.

Komassa's wife first took Colton to their pediatrician, who said their son had an ear and bronchial infection. They gave the family medicine, but Colton's condition seemed to get worse.

The couple took Colton to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.

Doctors diagnosed him with RSV and bronchiolitis, and he stayed in the hospital for about five days.

Komassa said doctors gave him plenty of fluids and pushed high-flow oxygen into his system.

“Don’t be afraid to tell people they can’t hold your baby," she advised. "Keep an eye out and be persistent. If you feel like you didn’t get a good answer your first time at the doctor, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.”

State experts say there were 622 influenza hospitalizations this season, and 97 of those required intensive care.

Sixty-percent of the total admissions were for people younger than 65 years old. Leaders say this is the exact opposite of the usual trend where 60-percent of admitted cases are 65-years or older.

The State Department of Health Services releases a weekly flu report, which you can find here.


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