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Pediatrician: Teen's death a reminder of why flu virus is dangerous

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Feb 4th, 2013 @ 6:12pm


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PROVO — Students at Timpview High School are learning a tough life lesson after their classmate died of complications related to a combination of influenza and a staphylococcus infection.

Parker Allred's death also has doctors re-affirming the needs for families to take health precautions for their kids.

Everywhere you looked in the Provo neighborhood surrounding Timpview High School Monday, blue ribbons — one of the school colors — were tied around posts and trees in memory of the 16-year-old. Students also dressed in their finest clothes, saying they wanted both tributes to show their love and support to Allred's family.

"Everyone copes differently with loss, especially his family and close friends, so the student body decided to dress up," explained Tanner Williams, a student at Timpview High.

Allred passed away on Saturday from what his family said was a severe case of the flu that may have been complicated by a staph infection he may have unknowingly been carrying.

What is a staph infection?

What is a staph infection?

Staph is the shortened name for Staphylococcus, a type of bacteria ... (that can) live harmlessly on many skin surfaces. But when the skin is punctured or broken for any reason ... staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause an infection.

How do people get staph infections?

In teens, most staph infections are minor skin infections. ... People can get staph infections from contaminated objects, but staph bacteria often spread through skin-to-skin contact ... among those who live close together in group situations (such as in college dorms). Usually this happens when people with skin infections share things like bed linens, towels, or clothing. Warm, humid environments can contribute to staph infections, so excessive sweating can increase someone's chances of developing an infection.

(Source: KidsHealth.org)

Deaths from the flu in children are rare but do happen. Already, 45 children in the United States have died this year from flu-related complications.

Dr. Russell Osguthorpe, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases, could not discuss Allred's case but said it's possible for a bacterial infection, such as staph or streptococcal (strep), to cause serious complications from the flu in otherwise healthy children.

"We're not sure exactly why that is, but the theories behind it are (that) the virus chews up the back of your throat and the lining of your lungs, and the bacteria that normally live on our bodies have access to tissue plains and deeper tissues that they normally wouldn't otherwise, and they can become invasive and cause more serious problems," Osguthorpe explained.

Osguthorp cautioned parents to teach children good hygiene — specifically good hand-washing, and to cover their face when they cough or sneeze. Also, he recommends keeping sick children home from school and other public places, and said parents need to make sure their kids are always vaccinated against the flu.

"The CDC recommends children 6 months of age through adulthood be vaccinated every year for influenza," Osguthorpe said. "That is our best public health strategy at controlling the infection."

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