11:36 AM

Following 8 Flu Deaths in U.S., Vaccine Remains First Line of Defense

Young mom latest to die, only two days after she got the flu

A news story out of Phoenix serves as a tragic reminder to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

Alani Murrieta, a 20-year-old mother, died only two days after she began feeling ill from the flu, according to the Washington Post. Her young children and other family members had become sick during a long Thanksgiving holiday. While the other family members got better, Murrieta became progressively worse.

She went to a nearby urgent care center where she was prescribed Tamiflu. By the next day, she was coughing uncontrollably and, at one point, she coughed up blood. She was admitted to Banner Estrella Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. Two days after she became ill, Murrieta died.

Her family told CBS News that Murrieta did not get a flu shot, but doctors couldn’t say for sure whether it would have made a difference.

Murrieta was the eighth flu death in the United States this season, according to a Fox News report. Five deaths were reported in North Carolina, two in Oklahoma and then the latest in Arizona. CBS News, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports that 7,000 cases of influenza have been confirmed in the U.S., more than double the number this time last year.

“What we do know is the flu vaccine is still the best form of protection we have to fight off getting sick,” said Justin Smith, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s in Trophy Club. “Even if you do get the flu, people who are vaccinated generally get a milder and less dangerous form of the illness.”

The flu has arrived in Fort Worth. Last week, 33 kids tested positive for the flu at Cook Children’s and 28 of those cases were Flu A, the more severe and dominant strain.

Some experts are predicting a potentially severe influenza season based on what has been seen in other parts of the world. This year, Australia saw record-high amounts of flu cases. The flu vaccine, which is the same one used in the U.S., was only 10 percent effective in preventing Flu A.

“The concern is when people hear that news, they wonder if they should even bother getting the flu vaccine for themselves and for their children,” Dr. Smith said. “We saw some of those comments posted on Cook Children’s Facebook page. The answer is without question, ‘Yes!’ Parents, should take every precaution to protect their children during this time of year and that begins with the flu vaccine.”

Another concern often voiced by parents is the risk of contracting the flu from the vaccine itself.

Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Disease, stresses a person cannot get the flu from the flu shot. They may feel achy for a day or two but that is very different from being in bed with a high fever for a week from a true influenza infection.

“We do know that thousands of deaths nationally are prevented every year by vaccination against the flu,” Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Disease said earlier this week. “It is important to note that although the vaccine has known side effects that are similar to all vaccines given, side effects are mild and uncommon. Serious side effects are very rare.”

Along with getting the flu shot, parents should take the following steps to protect their kids from the illness:

  1. Teach your kids to cover their coughs. Remember to cough into the crook of your elbow and not into your hands. And throw away the tissues.
  2. Wash your hands. Other than a vaccine, this is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your kids from the flu. Teach kids to use soap and wash their hands for at least 20 second or long enough to sing “Happy Birthday.
  3.  Kids with the flu are usually sick 3-5 days and then start to improve. If you or your child’s symptoms are worse than you expect or last longer, please call your doctor to discuss.