TEMPLE — An infant girl died last week in Temple of the flu.
The Bell County child, less than 14 days old, was born full term and healthy, but wound up at McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White with the flu.
This was the first reported flu death of a Bell County resident during the current flu season. A Coryell County man died in December at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center in Temple.
“The health district is investigating where the infant may have picked up the virus; we’re looking at everything right now,” said Lacey Sanders, disease surveillance coordinator for the Bell County Health District.
“We just know she went home healthy and came back and was very sick,” Sanders said.
Like pertussis, where children can’t receive the vaccination at birth, children have to be 6 months old before being immunized for influenza.
Both require the cocoon effect, where the individuals around the baby have received the necessary vaccinations, to keep the baby safe from infection.
Everybody in the community who has gotten their flu shots helps protect babies who are at risk, said Dr. Robert Burke, Scott & White pediatrician and vice chairman of the department of pediatrics.
“For infants, it’s important to minimize their exposure to anybody who is ill, especially for the first couple months when they are trying to build an immune system,” Burke said.
Another important practice is to vaccinate the pregnant mother, he said. She would be less likely to get the flu and less likely to transmit it.
The flu kills anywhere between 4,000 and 50,000 people each year in the United States, Burke said.
“That’s a shame because the flu is a largely preventable disease,” he said.
The injected vaccine is made from a dead virus and doesn’t cause the flu or symptoms of the flu.
The nasal mist is made from a live virus that has been weakened and stimulates the immune system a little better than the shot, Burke said. The mist can cause a runny nose and sore throat for a couple of days, but nothing as severe as the flu.
According to flu surveillance by the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have been five pediatric deaths in the state during this flu season.
Symptoms of the flu can start two days after a person has been exposed to the virus.
Bell County cases have leveled off, with no significant increases reported over the past couple of weeks, Sanders said.