Milwaukee reports first pediatric flu-related death, doctors say season has been particularly hard

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee health officials say another child has died of flu-like complications in Wisconsin.

This marks the third pediatric death in the state this season so far.

This season’s flu is shaping up to be particularly hard, especially on children.

But local pharmacies say they’re still offering flu shots, and it’s not too late to get one.

“Compared to last year these times, I would say there are more people at this time of year getting it,” said Tyler Luu, a pharmacist at Hayat Pharmacy.

He says this year they’ve seen a higher demand than normal for the flu vaccine.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any sign of it slowing down, we would expect more symptoms to arise up until probably late April, potentially even May,” said Luu.

Complications from the flu -- which can include pneumonia, bronchitis, and even heart problems, can be deadly, especially in more vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.

“It’s been incredible. So far our urgent care walk-in clinics we have seen such a high spike in flu cases that even in very young kids have been severely affected, some of them had to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Jorge Ramallo, from Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers. “But just in pure numbers, we’ve seen at least a doubling of patients with the flu in our clinic.”

Dr. Ramallo says most of the cases they’ve seen at Sixteenth Street Clinic have been pediatric.

According to the Milwaukee Health Department, this flu season has been especially hard. 415 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported and 59 of those were individuals under the age of 18.

The first pediatric death in Milwaukee was reported Tuesday, Feb. 18.

“It is just a tragedy, and more so because it is a preventable death,” said Dr. Ramallo about flu-related deaths in general.

Flu symptoms can be confused with the common cold and include fever, sore throat, aches and pains, and fatigue.

The flu season will go on for a bit longer.

Those we spoke with say your best bet is getting vaccinated, and it’s not too late to do so.

“You have to think about a risk-benefit ratio. So, the benefits from the flu vaccine greatly outweigh the risks of adverse reaction or something that’s really extremely rare. The flu vaccine does not cause you to get sick,” said Dr. Ramallo.

The best advice they can offer is prevention -- making sure people remember to get the flu shot, washing hands often and thoroughly, and covering coughs and sneezes. And if you do happen to catch the flu, stay home to stop it from spreading.

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