A St. Louis Park teenager died Tuesday from complications with influenza – the second healthy teen to die of flu-related illness in Minnesota. She is believed to be Minnesota's fifth overall flu-related fatality.
WCCO reports that 14-year-old Carly Christenson began experiencing a sore throat, fever and shortness of breath in late December.
Despite reportedly receiving a flu vaccination, Carly was diagnosed with "Influenza A" and admitted to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis on Christmas Eve. The teen underwent a heart and lung bypass and required daily blood transfusions.
According to Westwood Lutheran Church, Carly was surrounded by family and friends when she passed away Tuesday afternoon.
The ninth-grader played basketball at St. Louis Park High School. KSTP says all girls' basketball games scheduled for Tuesday evening are canceled as Carly's teammates mourn her loss.
St. Louis Park High School officials on the school website said they were using counselors, social workers and other staff to help grieving students, the Star Tribune reported.
Kris Ehresmann, head of the infectious diseases and vaccine program at the state Health Department, said she could not confirm reports that the girl had received a flu shot, the newspaper reported.
Carly was the second otherwise healthy teen to die of flu-related illnesses in the state in the last few weeks. An athletic, 6-foot-4 teen visiting the Midwest from Texas for the holidays also fell ill on Christmas Eve and died Dec. 29 at a St. Paul hospital.
It's not unheard of for healthy kids to die in a battle with the flu, or flu-related illness, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research released in October. The study said 43 percent of American children who died from flu were perfectly healthy beforehand, MSNBC reported.
The research was presented at IDWeek 2012, an infectious disease groups conference. The study found that between 2004 and 2012, 829 U.S. children under 18 died from influenza-associated causes, CNN reported.
The CDC’s Dr. Karen Wong, an author of the study, said vaccination is the best protection for children and adults. “Because the study did find a lot of otherwise healthy kids who did have influenza-associated deaths, and because we know deaths can happen fast, prevention is best, and the best prevention is the vaccine,” she told MSNBC.
Officials say this flu season is distinguishing itself as a bad one. The Minnesota Department of Health's latest flu report said 578 people had been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza so far this season.
Some hospitals in Minnesota have begun restricting visitor access as one measure to curb the fast-spreading flu virus.
Nationwide, this flu season is already "moderate to severe,” Tom Skinner of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the New York Daily News. “In the past 10 years we have seen just two or three like it,” he told the newspaper.
In its latest report, the CDC on Dec. 29 said influenza was being reported as widespread in 41 states. And there's still three months of flu season left.