Flu in Arizona: Child death count up to three so far in Maricopa County

PHOENIX - Coming down with something? You're not the only one.

We're currently seeing the highest number of cases this early during an Arizona flu season since reporting began, officials say.

As of January 13, the Arizona Department of Health Services has seen 14,292 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza across the state this season, 2,158 cases were confirmed in the last week alone.

According to the latest DHS report, three flu-related child deaths have been confirmed so far this season.

RELATED: Flu widespread in Arizona, up 758 percent compared to last year

Take a look at the chart below to compare this season's flu cases with last season, with consideration of the average over the last five seasons in yellow. 

 

Both the Maricopa County Health Services and DHS do not actively track flu deaths each season, but the DHS does review each season to see how many people died from influenza and pneumonia.

A total of 709 people died in Arizona during the 2016-2017 flu season, which is below the 5-season average of 731.

Click on each county in the map below to see the breakout of lab-confirmed cases across the state.

During the 2016-2017 flu season, Arizona was slightly above our average over the past five seasons.

But this season, the state has experienced over nine times as many cases as the five season average.

It should be noted that the AZDHS acknowledges that there are many reports that have not been processed and the numbers could still rise.

The agency also points out that this number represents a fraction of the total individuals with the flu, as many do not go to their doctor nor do doctors usually run tests on every patient.

Just in the last week, there has been more than 2,000 flu cases in Arizona, with nearly 13,000 more cases this year compared to last season, according to the Department of Health Services.

Lisa Baba, a nurse practitioner with Good Night Pediatrics, says ER's are saturated with patients sometimes waiting hours to be seen. She says the waiting room at Good Night Pediatrics has been full since October and it's expected to be this way until April.  

Dozens of children across the country have died from the flu; three here in Arizona. Parents left wondering how a child can be healthy one minute but die from the flu the next?  

Baba explains that the flu attacks the respiratory systems and weakens the immune system.

"The virus breaks down the cell membranes and then it makes it easier for the bacteria to enter and often the secondary bacterial infection that the child dies from and not the flu," said Baba.  

Baba says there are a lot of ways the flu can contribute to a child's death. It can also interrupt a child's breathing.  

A runny nose, headaches, fever, chills, are expected. But there are other symptoms where you'll need to see a doctor quick. 

"If you are concerned that they're not drinking and taking adequate fluids. If their breathing is rapid or they look like they're having difficulty breathing," said Baba. 

You should also get your child to the doctor sooner rather than later if they come down with the flu and they have a chronic illness or asthma, if they're an infant, or they're having a hard time breathing.

The biggest thing, she says, is to make sure your child is staying well hydrated. You can also give them anti-viral foods like chicken soup and bananas. You can also add cinnamon, honey, and lemon to their warm beverages.  

The best defense is prevention, Baba says, make sure your child gets the flu shot and keep them away from areas where there are known flu breakouts. Make sure kids wash their hands and practice good hygiene.  

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