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Two children, one from Pasco County, die from flu-related complications, state says

Published Nov. 25, 2014

The Florida Department of Health announced Monday the deaths of two children, one in Pasco County and one in Orange County, from flu-related complications.

Health officials refused to provide the ages and hometowns of the children.

The Pasco child had an underlying health condition, said Deanna Krautner, a spokeswoman for the Pasco County Health Department. Linda Cobbe, a spokeswoman for the Pasco school district, said the child attended a district school but would not say which one. She said counselors were on hand last week for the student's classmates.

Experts say flu deaths in otherwise healthy people are unusual. Pre-existing health conditions often play a role in how individuals react to the flu.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of these children," said Dr. Celeste Philip, deputy secretary for health and deputy state health Officer for Children's Medical Services. "Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu."

In the most recent flu surveillance report, Pasco and Hillsborough were among 11 counties that reported moderate flu activity. Previously, both Tampa Bay counties had only mild activity.

Experts recommend certain people — pregnant women, young children and people with illnesses such as cancer and asthma — pay particular attention to personal hygiene, avoid close contact with infected persons and get the flu vaccine.

Additional flu prevention steps include washing your hands often, keeping your hands away from your face and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing and coughing. Symptoms of the flu include headache, fever, severe cough, sore throat, runny nose or body aches.

In Florida, the most common influenza subtype detected in recent weeks has been influenza A (H3). Officials refused to say if that's the type found in the two recent deaths.

Last December, a 27-year-old Pasco mother of three died from complications of H1N1, commonly known as swine flu.

Each year scientists try to match the viruses in the vaccine to those most likely to cause the flu that particular year. Currently available vaccine formulations protect against all strains of influenza that have been identified as circulating in Florida this season, state health officials said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age 6 months and older get vaccinated, with a few rare exceptions. State officials on Monday declined to say whether the two children who died had been vaccinated.

Contact Jodie Tillman at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @jtillmantimes.