Mason fourth-grader’s death renews area flu concerns

The unexpected death of a Mason student last week spotlighted the dangers of flu season, which is seeing a spike of infections in one county.

Western Row Elementary fourth-grader Sable Gibson was first stricken with the flu and strep throat before dying from cardiac arrest on Tuesday. The school sent a message to families that said, in part, “Sable’s family shares that their sweet daughter was diagnosed with strep throat and influenza on Tuesday morning which lead to cardiac arrest Tuesday afternoon.”

Warren County officials said flu cases are sharply down in Mason and elsewhere this winter season. But Butler County is now seeing a jump in reports of flu victims.

ExploreMORE: Mason 4th grader stricken by flu dies of cardic arrest

“This flu season has been late and light,” said Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer. “But starting about a week ago, we have seen spike in the number of flu hospitalizations.”

Bailer said Butler County had been averaging five to 10 hospitalizations from flu per week, but in the last part of this month health officials have seen an average of 25 cases being reported.

“It’s not too late to get a flu shot,” Bailer said.

Overall, it has been the mildest flu season of the last three years in Butler County, she said.

But she stressed her department and others in Ohio’s 88 counties only receive reports from local hospitals of flu victims who are hospitalized and not any information on those residents who suffer through the illness without going to the hospital.

Earlier this month, a 3-year-old died in Highland County, becoming the first reported death from the flu this winter, according to the Ohio Department of Health. During the 2017-18 flu season, Ohio reported six flu-associated pediatric deaths.

MORE: Flu season has been light so far for Butler County

The top health official in Warren County said the death of the Western Row student is not indicative of a trend.

“This case is an outlier,” Warren County Health Commissioner Duane Stansbury said. “The flu rates this year are much lower as are the hospitalizations for the flu.”

His department is waiting for a fully detailed report from the local hospital that treated Gibson. Stansbury said neither Mason schools, nor any other school in the county, have requested help from health officials this winter in combating outbreaks of the flu or any other illnesses.

According to Sietske de Fijter, state epidemiologist and chief of the Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Infectious Diseases, “it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”

“Getting the flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to prevent the flu for everyone 6 months and older,” said de Fijter. “If you are sick with the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading it to others.”

Symptoms of flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Flu vaccination is available at most healthcare providers’ offices, local health departments and retail pharmacies. There are no flu vaccine shortages across Ohio at this time, said state health officials.

Other effective ways to avoid getting or spreading the flu include: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick.

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