Flu has killed 8 in Champaign County, 1 in Douglas County this year

Flu has killed 8 in Champaign County, 1 in Douglas County this year

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TUSCOLA — Eight people in Champaign County have died from the flu this year, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

All eight known cases were older adults who died in January, public health Administrator Julie Pryde said.

Flu deaths are reported as flu/pneumonia, she said, so it’s unknown how many of the eight deaths involved both. Pneumonia is one of the serious complications that can develop with flu.

The number is based on what information the health district has now, but the actual number of flu deaths for the year could be higher and continue to grow.

“I need to remind people this flu season has not peaked,” Pryde said.

And it’s not just older adults who are vulnerable to what’s been a ravaging flu season.

The Douglas County Coroner’s Office this week released preliminary autopsy findings that identified the cause of death for Chantelle Clark, a 24-year-old rural Tuscola mother of two, as an unidentified flu strain and pneumonia.

Douglas County Coroner Joe Victor said Ms. Clark died Wednesday at her home. She’d gone to a doctor in Monticello with flu and pneumonia symptoms the previous Friday, and a blood test was done, he said.

“I can’t believe that somebody sent her home,” Victor said.

The death investigation is still in its early stages, he said. The coroner’s office is still waiting on lab tests to identify the flu strain but wanted to get the word out about the death as quickly as possible to warn people who haven’t yet gotten flu shots.

This death — the county’s first flu death this year — struck a nerve, Victor said.

Whether Ms. Clark had a flu shot is unknown, he said, but “we don’t believe she did.”

Strains of both influenza A, including H3N2 and H1N1, and influenza B are circulating in this region, according to Pryde.

That’s why she and others are urging everyone who still hasn’t gotten a flu shot to get one now. That advice applies even to those who have already been sick with the flu this season.

“People can get more than one strain, so if they have had the flu and they have not had the flu shot, it would still be a good idea to get the flu shot,” she said.

Influenza isn’t a required reportable communicable disease, but health departments can monitor the level of flu activity in their areas by the numbers of emergency-room and convenient-care visits tied to flu-like illness. Flu this season has reached the level of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, Pryde said.

Flu shots are still widely available through the health district, drugstores and medical providers, she said. The C-U Public Health District accepts insurance for flu shots but doesn’t turn anyone away who wants a shot but can’t pay for it.

The Douglas County Health Department has been giving free flu shots to all residents of that county since December, said Administrator Amanda Minor.

The flu shot has been about 36 percent effective this season, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality report, released Friday.

“CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination because the vaccine can still prevent some infections with currently circulating influenza viruses, which are expected to continue circulating for several weeks,” it says. “Even with current vaccine effectiveness estimates, vaccination will still prevent influenza illness, including thousands of hospitalizations and deaths.”

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