North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports first child flu death of season

North Carolina has reported the state's first child death from flu for the 2013-2014 season.
January 13, 2014 8:22:11 PM PST
State health officials are ramping up their flu fighting efforts after a baby in the eastern part of the state died from the illness.

To protect the family's privacy the state is withholding the child's identity and specific location.

The baby's death highlights the fact that younger adults and kids are more susceptible, and that there's a need to take precaution.

The fatality means 22 people in North Carolina have died from influenza this season.

"My heart goes out to that family," said Ilina Ewen, of Raleigh, who is also fighting the flu. "The chills, achy. I didn't really have a high fever. Mostly, I've had a really bad persistent cough."

For five days now, Ewen has avoided cooking, close contact with her husband and two kids, and the doctor's office.

"If I could hit rewind, I would have gone to the doctor right away on Thursday when I felt achy because five days later is too late."

Ewen's case underscores what health officials have warned about -- that the virus is hitting children and younger adults hardest this year.

As of last week, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported 21 deaths associated with seasonal flu. Of those, 19 were young and middle aged adults, most with underlying medical conditions.

Only two deaths have been reported in people older than 65.

"I just thought I got a flu shot, there's no way I can have the flu," said Ewen.

Doctors say the child who died Monday was too young to receive a flu shot. Ewen, however, got the vaccine and got sick anyway. Still, she and health officials are encouraging those who are able to get one.

"All of us who healthy and able to get vaccinated to protect those who are not as strong in their immunity as we are," said Ewen. "I think we need to do it."

In addition to getting a flu shot, public health experts recommend washing your hands often with soap and water, and staying away from others who might have the flu.

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