At least two children have died from the flu in Wichita during the 2017-18 flu season.
Susan Burchill, a spokeswoman with Wesley Healthcare, 550 N. Hillside, confirmed that the hospital has had two pediatric deaths from the flu. At Wesley, “pediatric” includes newborns to age 18.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prevents the hospital from sharing identifiable information about the children who died.
Roz Hutchinson, a spokeswoman with Via Christi, said the hospital does not release information to the public regarding pediatric flu deaths. She said that information is reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
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Jerry Kratochvil, a spokesman with the state health department, said no pediatric flu deaths have been reported to the KDHE. However, he said the department bases its count on death certificates, and it can take months for the department to receive those. To the state, “pediatric” includes newborns to age 17.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Jan. 26 that a rapid increase in flu-related illnesses after the winter holiday season has been seen among all ages but was higher in children.
Wichita schools reported a spike in illnesses in their students, though it’s nearly impossible to tell how many students specifically caught the flu this year, spokeswoman Susan Arensman previously told The Eagle.
In Kansas, influenza has been the direct cause of death in 68 people and a contributing cause of death in 32 people, according to the Feb. 5 KDHE report. Pneumonia has been the direct cause of death in 174 people and a contributing cause of death in 566 people.
Because influenza and pneumonia frequently occur together during the flu season, both illnesses are reported on KDHE death certificates. As of Feb. 5, influenza and pneumonia have been linked as a factor in 837 deaths in Kansas.
The CDC said this year’s flu season is the worst the nation has seen since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Nationwide, 6.6 percent of patients who went to either a clinic or emergency department during this flu season had an influenza-like illness, according to a Jan. 26 statement from the CDC. In 2009, that percentage peaked at 7.7 percent.
A company that makes smart thermometers recently said that Kansas is the sickest state in the nation. Kinsa monitors the flu by tracking fever spikes through its thermometers.
In Kansas, more than 12 percent of Kansans who went to see a doctor had an influenza-like illness last week, according to the KDHE. At this time last year, less than 8 percent of visits were connected to an influenza-like illness.
In south-central Kansas, which includes Wichita, almost 15 percent of patients last week had an influenza-like illness.
The KDHE monitors flu season from Sept. 1 through May 31.
To protect yourself from the flu, the CDC recommends to get a flu vaccine, avoid close contact with those who are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, wash your hands with soap and water often and take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor provides them.