Mason, a fourth-year student, kills worries about flu in the region


Sand Gibson, a fourth grade student from Western Row Elementary School, was first diagnosed with influenza and strep throat before dying from a cardiac arrest on Tuesday. The school sent a message to families saying, "Sable's family says her sweet daughter was diagnosed Tuesday morning with angina and flu, which resulted in a heart attack Tuesday afternoon.

Warren County officials said influenza cases were down sharply in Mason and elsewhere this winter. But Butler County is currently seeing an increase in the number of flu victims.

MORE: Mason 4th grader, hit by flu, dies of cardiac arrest

"This flu season has been late and light," said Jenny Bailer, Butler County Health Commissioner. "But for about a week, the number of hospitalizations related to the flu has skyrocketed."

Bailer said Butler County had recorded an average of five to 10 hospitalizations for influenza a week, but that during the latter part of this month, health officials recorded an average of 25 cases .

"It's not too late to get the flu shot," Bailer said.

Overall, it's the mildest flu season of the past three years in Butler County, she said.

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But she pointed out that her department and the other departments of Ohio's 88 counties only received reports from local hospitals that hospitalized flu victims and had no information about residents suffering from the disease without traveling to hospital.

Earlier this month, a three-year-old died in Highland County, becoming the first reported case of flu death this winter, according to the Ohio Department of Health. During the 2017-2018 influenza season, Ohio reported six pediatric deaths associated with influenza.

MORE: The flu season has been low so far for Butler County

The highest health official in Warren County said that the death of the Western Row student was not indicative of a trend.

"This case is a special case," said Duane Stansbury, Warren County Health Commissioner. "Influenza rates this year are much lower than hospitalizations for the flu."

His department is waiting for a detailed report from the local hospital that handled Gibson. Stansbury said neither Mason schools, nor any other school in the county, had sought help from health authorities this winter to fight the epidemics of influenza or any other illness.

According to Sietske de Fijter, chief epidemiologist and head of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases at the Ohio Department of Health, "it's not too late to get the flu shot."

"Getting the flu shot is the safest and most effective way to prevent flu for all people 6 months and older," said de Fijter. "If you're sick of the flu, stay home and do not go to work or school to avoid passing it on to others."

Symptoms of flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. The flu vaccine is available at most health care provider offices, local health departments and retail pharmacies. There is no shortage of flu vaccines in Ohio yet, state health officials said.

Other effective ways to avoid getting or spreading flu include: washing your hands frequently or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; cover up coughs and sneezes with paper tissues or cough or sneeze into the elbows; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and stay home when I'm sick.

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