‘Symptoms should not be ignored:’ Expert stresses caution after flu complications claim four Ohio children

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AKRON, Ohio -- The weekend death of an East Liverpool boy from complications believed related to the flu only adds to the heartache of a  season that has claimed three other Ohio children.

Colton Williams, 7, was a first grader at North Elementary. He died on Saturday after his parents took him back to a local hospital emergency room. Colton will be remembered during calling hours held on Wednesday, from 2-8 p.m. at Dawson Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Dawson Funeral Home, a spokesperson said on Monday.

Last week, flu complications claimed the life of Eva Harris, 6, of Rocky River. Christopher Avilia, 6, of Columbiana County died in January as did another 7-year-old from Fulton County, Ohio near Toledo.

Dr. Marguarite Erme of Summit County Public Health on Monday issued a release saying the number of flu cases in Summit County, like cases across the country, have been increasing.

February typically marks the peak of flu season and Dr. Erme said the current strain of flu that is being transmitted is associated with the most severe symptoms.

"I think that people need to realize that influenza is not a trivial disease and even healthy people, whether they are young, whether they are older, can suffer complications of influenza including death," Erme said.

Dr. Erme said it is still too early in the season to tell if the severity is greater than usual for the season.

"They have been monitoring pediatric deaths for at  least 12 years now in the country. We have had as many as close to 200 deaths a year in this country and as few as a couple dozen so that also varies from year to year, and a lot of it varies by how severe the strain of influenza is," Erme said.

Erme said the word "flu" is typically used to describe a whole host of symptoms, but stresses that for those who are most vulnerable, including children and people who are elderly, the symptoms should not be ignored.

"It can make them prone to sinus infections, ear infections, pneumonia, or if they have a chronic medical problem like heart disease, diabetes, asthma, worse. But it can also affect different organs of the body and cause respiratory failure. It can cause multi-organ failure, neurological problems and again, for some people and not a lot, but still some people it can cause death," she added.

Erme urges all of the typical precautions, including routine hand washing. She also suggests parents do everything they can to try and stay healthy, like getting a flu shot, so that they don't transmit it to their children.

She also said people should stay home when they do not feel well so they don't transmit the flu to others. Erme added people use caution, but not paranoia, and treat the flu very seriously.

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