Feb 7, 2017, 11:43 AM ET

Flu Takes a Toll in NYC, With 4 Children Reported Dead in Seasonal Outbreak


The flu season has been particularly rough in New York City this year, with four pediatric influenza deaths reported in the city, all in January, according to New York State Health Department.

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The flu has been spreading across the country, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeing epidemic levels of flu activity late last month.

There have been 15 flu-related pediatric deaths in the nation this flu season, the CDC reported last week.

New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania all reported high levels of flu-like activity, according to a CDC flu report last week.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that while the deaths are tragic, the number of New York cases is not unusual for the flu season. The New York State Department of Health did not disclose the ages of the children or whether they had been vaccinated or had underlying conditions that put them at additional risk for complications.

"Every year in [Vanderbilt's] pediatric emergency room come children who are otherwise clearly healthy, and they are seriously ill with the flu," Schaffner said. "The lesson is that flu can strike even healthy children."

During the previous flu season, 89 pediatric deaths related to the flu virus were reported in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Public health experts have been concerned about vaccination rates, since pediatricians may have difficulty getting some children vaccinated against the flu if they have an aversion to needles, Schaffner noted. While in the past doctors could vaccinate needle-averse children with a flu mist vaccine, they were advised not to use the flu nasal spray this year because it was found less effective than a vaccine injection.

"It's clear that the substantial majority of children who die from influenza every year have not been vaccinated," Schaffner said, emphasizing that he was speaking generally and not about the recent deaths in New York.

Flu symptoms include headache, fever, joint pain and cough. The seasonal flu generally spreads across the U.S. from November till March, with the peak number of cases often occurring in February.

The number of people affected every year can vary widely, but generally, the CDC reports that "millions of people are sickened, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu every year." Children under the age of 1 are at increased likelihood of developing complications if they contract the flu.

News - Flu Takes a Toll in NYC, With 4 Children Reported Dead in Seasonal Outbreak

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  • OldPoorRichard

    Don't use the nasal mist because it's less effective?

    What's the effectiveness of no vaccine? I'm guessing about 0%. Is 0% greater than the effectiveness of the nasal mist?

  • odinsleep

    why is this very old story being posted today in september as if it was brand new ?

    bad ABC News ! bad !!

  • Elizabeth

    Why is this article from Feb. up again in the middle of Aug?

  • Beth

    I find it interesting that there is no mention of whether or not the four children who died from influenza were vaccinated against influenza or not. There is also no mention of what strain of influenza killed them or if that strain was in this year's flu shot. The sad truth is that no matter how many studies are done on the flu vaccine the researchers find that when a person has received consecutive flu shots each season, they are more susceptible to influenza than an unvaccinated person is. How can anyone convincingly, or even logically state that taking an annual flu shot is beneficial, if the desired end result is "no influenza" in the recipient? When will this stupid public policy recommendation end? Enough already. Annual flu shots weaken the immune system and diminish a person's defense against influenza when the flu shot is taken in consecutive flu seasons.

  • Oh_brother!

    Being immunossuppressed I cannot afford to skip any vaccinations.

  • wg seattle

    We've had over 200 die in western Washington from this.. everybody here is sick.. bad flu season..

  • Atavist

    The anti-vaxxer win again. How many Americans might die from ignorance?

  • EarlGrayHot 00

    While people can fall prey to secondary bacterial infections, the real problem can be that your immune system puts on such a raging battle that the immune response itself can be the cause of your demise. Bottom line is that everyone should be getting the flu vaccine as well as every other vaccine that is available.
    And kids being "averse to needles?" It's going to keep them safe. They have to get it anyway. Decent parents make sure their kids get all their vaccines. Parents who don't do that should be charged with neglect because disease is a public health issue.

  • grumpier

    6 coworkers dropped out yesterday, 2 more have been hospitalized and others have been out for weeks....this years strain is no joke!

  • Alex

    The pity of it all sc, they have their problems

  • Jay Alvarez

    Trump, a NYer, will never address this because his businesses will not make money from it

  • carcar

    That's awful for the families but thousands die from complications of the flu every year - mostly the elderly and children. Nothing statistically abnormal about these deaths

  • Nala

    there will be a lot more dead when the ACA disappears

  • FlushRyan

    Cuomo would offer the flu amnesty

  • STJ581

    Obviously the right approach (headed up by the President and the GOP congress of course) is to eliminate the CDC. Praying away disease is the best and clear solution. MAGA

  • Atavist

    I'm sure the anti-vaxxers are thrilled to hear about these deaths. Either that or they will deny it and claim it is a government plot.

  • rightened

    Back in 1984, 57,400 deaths were attributed to the flu. I got the flu in December of that year--dropped a lot of weight and pretty much took about four or five weeks to recover. Unfortunately, the flu left me with a lifelong case of cold sores, and it weakened my health to where I ended up getting pneumonia for the following two years (October 1985, October 1986), and have had breathing issues ever since. Even if someone recovers from the flu, there are future consequences to one's health that must be considered.

    Just a little something for the anti-vaxxers to think about. You might THINK it's over when the symptoms subside, but you don't know for sure. I'd have loved to have skipped the flu and gotten the proper vaccine in 1984. Would've saved a fortune in Campho-Phenique over the years, not to mention being able to kiss people whenever I wanted to, rather than having to restrain from showing affection in that way to spare them from getting cold sores, too.

  • cheeke11967

    Why not give children the mist anyway?! Some prevention is better than none especially when it comes to children and needles.

  • cake

    I think most people underestimate the flu. It's always referred to as "cold and flu" season, lumping the two together, but the difference with the flu is that it suppresses your immune system so much that other bacteria gets access to your body that normally would not stand a chance. That's why pneumonia is a common complication. The one and only time I got the flu, I also came down with pneumonia two days later.

  • rightened

    As sad as the deaths are, let's put it into perspective...

    "In 1957, which was on the whole a much milder illness than that of 1918, the global death toll was estimated to be around 2 million. In 1957, the Asian flu pandemic resulted in about 70,000 deaths in the United States. An excess 30,000 deaths occurred in England and Wales of which 6,716 were ascribed to influenza itself. Estimates in the UK ranged from 1.3 to 3.5 deaths/1,000 cases. An estimate from 29 British general practices was 2.3 deaths per 1,000 cases attended."