Hospital: Infant dies from flu in Lehigh County

Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest has set up a mobile tent to handle the surge of those with flu-like symptoms.

January 10, 2013 3:00:04 PM PST
An infant has reportedly died due to the flu in Lehigh County.

"I can tell you there is a presumed influenza-related death," said Terry Burger, R.N. "We are working to get that confirmation."

Burger is the infection control director for the Lehigh Valley Health Network. The infant's death occurred here last weekend.

Citing privacy issues, Burger said the hospital cannot release if the child had been vaccinated. Nor can it say if he or she had any chronic underlying health problems that might have increased risk.

With the recent uptick in possible flu cases crowding emergency rooms, Lehigh Valley opened a tent, a mobile emergency room, on Monday.

Since then is has seen about 20 patients a day with mild flu symptoms. Most are given a prescription for Tamiflu and sent home.

Authorities continue to urge people get a flu vaccination. It takes about 2 weeks for it to become effective, and effectiveness seems varies from person to person.

Nothing is perfect.

"The problem is, the vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective in most people and based on your age and underlying illnesses," said Burger. "It is not 100 percent effective for everyone."

Among the issues that can compromise a vaccine are: medications, such as those used in chemotherapy; and age, because the very old and very young can face elevated risks.

Still, the thinking is that even partial protection from a vaccine is better than no protection at all.

"Pretty much the indication is, if you get the vaccination, hopefully your disease will not be as severe and you won't have as many complications," said Burger.