SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – Local health officials are stressing the importance of early treatment and flu prevention after a 6-year-old Salem boy died after getting Influenza A.
State health officials believe it is the first death this year in Ohio involving a child with the flu.
The boy was taken to Salem Regional Medical Center after getting sick on Friday. He passed away at Akron Children’s Hospital, where he was transferred.
He was a kindergarten student at St. Paul School. Counselors were at the school on Tuesday to talk with kids about the student’s death.
Infectious disease expert Dr. John Venglarcik said the boy may have developed a secondary infection after initially coming down with the flu.
“My understanding is that there were complications from the influenza that may be the cause of death ultimately, although it was influenza originally,” he said.
Dr. Venglarcik said symptoms of the flu include a fever, decrease in activity, body aches, a runny nose and sore throat. The onset of the symptoms usually comes quickly.
“You should know you have Influenza in 12 hours, so tracking how fast the symptoms increase are really of paramount importance,” he said.
Although St. Paul School was closed on Monday to disinfect surfaces as a precautionary measure, Dr. Venglarcik and the Salem City Health Department say the best recommendation for slowing the spread of the illness is to get a flu shot.
This month alone, there have been close to 300 cases of people in the Valley being hospitalized with the flu, and the season won’t peak for another two weeks.
“Anybody out there hearing our message today, if you wanna do something for yourself, for your neighbors, because it’s transmittable for your children if you want to do something, please go out and get a flu shot tomorrow,” Dr. Venglarcik said.
Locally, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in collaboration with the Mercer County Emergency Services Committee, will be conducting a free flu shot clinic from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 4 at the Shenango Valley Mall in Hermitage. The clinic, which could close earlier if shots are exhausted, is open to anyone ages 3 and older and will be held across from the entrance to Sears near the mall’s west end.
For information, call 724-662-7542.
The Salem City Health Department said frequent handwashing with regular soap and water can also stop the spread of germs. Those who are sick should stay home and avoid contact with ill individuals.