BUFFALO — “It’s heartbreaking and devastating anytime we have a child who dies,” stated Dr. Stephen Turkovich, is chief medical officer at Oishei Children's Hospital.
Due to privacy local health officials could not discuss Luca Calanni's case. But we do know Luca is one of two children to die of the flu in New York State this year.
Luca caught the flu just last week. His family says they brought him to the doctor three times, and he was starting to feel better before he took a turn for the worse.
His family says the virus attacked his heart. He went into cardiac arrest at Children’s and became septic.
“When it gets to your system - it can sometimes for some people - it can be overwhelming and really stifle a person's immune response and they're not able to fight off other infection,” remarked Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner.
Luca’s mother says he did get his flu shot, but health officials are warning of a potentially severe flu season and it’s already been very difficult for some children.
“So always go with your gut. If your child is just not acting right – you're really worried – take them to the doctor or to the hospital. That's the first thing,” explained Dr. Turkovich.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there have been twice as many pediatric flu deaths so far this year nationwide than at this same time last year.
Children's Hospital says it has had 500 patients through the emergency room test positive for the flu and has had more children admitted with the flu in the last few weeks.
But health experts are still strongly recommending children get their flu shot.
“If your children haven't been immunized yet, it’s very important to talk with your pediatrician and talk to them about the safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine and really have that discussions and strongly consider getting a flu vaccine,” Commissioner Burstein said.
“Flu B was thought to be a little more sever in children although we are seeing children sicker with both flu A and flu B,” described Dr. Turkovich.
Turkovich noted there seems to be more of Influenza B this season, which normally comes later during February or March.
Dr. Turkovich has advice for parents who’s child appears to have flu symptoms and is getting worse.
"If you have a child who is starting to become really lethargic, not eating well, not drinking well, not making a lot of urine. They’re becoming dehydrated. If they start breathing fast or heaving difficulty breathing – those would be signs that you need to get to your doctor or to the emergency room,” Dr. Turkovich said.
There have been concerns of the effectiveness of this season's vaccine, however, Dr. Turkovich stated "it's really, really important for everybody to get the vaccine, even if it is not 100-percent effective." Turkovich explained that any percent that is effective will help decrease the severity of the flu.
Luca turned 11 years old just last month.
“It’s just devastating. Our hearts break for this family,” Dr. Turkovich remarked.
Children’s Hospital has been dealing with a high rate of respiratory illness. Dr. Turkovich says the hospital’s pediatric IC has been dealing with a high volume of patients, 40-percent higher than last year.
The hospital is also experiencing a higher rate of patients in the ER during this flu season, about 180-patients per day, when it normally averages about 120.
The health commissioner wants parents to know there hasn't been an "outbreak of influenza" in any of the schools.
Dr. Burstein said the best way to stop the spread is wash hands as often as possible, don’t share meals and keep a “social distance” with anyone who might appear to be ill.
The county health department reports more than 10,000 confirmed influenza cases. You can read more by clicking this link to the county's Influenza Report.
You can also look at the state-wide number of cases by going to the New York State Department of Health – Flu Tracker. It includes county-by-county data and previous flu seasons.
Parents can also review flu resources by the American Academy of Pediatrics.