City warns public to watch out for flu after LeFrak City girl dies from disease

The worst flu season in memory has apparently cliamed the life of a 3-year-old from Elmhurst, officials said Monday.
By Mark Hallum

The Monday death of an 8-year-old Corona girl from the flu spurred a reaction from the city Dept. of Health on Tuesday to inform the public on the disease as it is the second pediatric fatality in the city thus far.

Physicians visited the girl’s LeFrak City home because she was having trouble breathing, according the city’s Health Department. She was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where she died at around 6:30 a.m., CBS reported. The medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy. AN ABC 7 report says that “death indicates the circumstances and cause were natural.”

City Dept. of Health Commissioner Mary Bassett held a Long Island City press conference Feb. 5 following the incident, in which she warned people that if their condition escalates to shaking chills and high fever with body aches, they should seek immediate medical attention, where they would likely receive antiviral treatment, which is in good supply in the City.

“It’s very important to remind New Yorkers that the flu is not the sniffles and a cough, that there are many people who die of influenza related illness,” Bassett said. “We lose more people to influenza and pneumonia every year than any other infection… I’m sure the tragic loss of a schoolmate and the tragic loss of a child will reverberate throughout the community, including the schools, but we are not treating this as something that needs an environmental intervention.”

Bassett advised residents to take advantage of the City’s paid sick leave law and not to go into work or school if they were experiencing symptoms, and to seek medical attention if their condition deteriorates quickly.

Bassett said the Dept. of Health monitors the flu from October through May and that the city had an early “rapid-rise” of the disease.

In 2015, the earliest year the City agency has data available, 2,094 people died of flu and pneumonia, with over 90 percent being over 65 years old, Bassett said.

Pediatric deaths average between zero and eight per year, she added, with six altogether occurring last year.

“This particular virus that we seeing this year, the H3N2 virus, is a wily virus which has proved difficult to find a highly effective vaccine for,” Bassett said. “That doesn’t mean that it isn’t protective.”

The Health Department cited the incident in a statement released following the girl’s death that urged locals to seek the proper treatment to avoid contracting the potentially fatal virus.

“The tragic death of a child due to the flu is a reminder of the devastating effects this illness can have on people of all ages. Influenza season is far from over, and it is not too late to get the flu shot. We urge parents to protect themselves and their families by getting this potentially life-saving vaccine today,” the agency’s statement read. “In addition to health care settings, flu vaccines are also available at pharmacies for children as young as 2-years-old. People with a compromised immune system, children, pregnant women, and those aged 65 and older who develop influenza-like symptoms should seek medical care as early as possible. For more information about where to get vaccinated, New Yorkers can call 311, visit nyc.gov/flu, or text “flu” to 877877.”

Bassett also advised people go to the emergency room if their symptoms worsen.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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