Officials: Flu claims life of otherwise healthy 12-year-old girl

The death of a 12-year-old Kitsap County girl is being blamed on the flu, health officials said Wednesday. (KOMO)

BREMERTON, Wash. (KOMO) - The death of a 12-year-old Kitsap County girl is being blamed on the flu, health officials said Wednesday.

Kitsap Public Health District spokeswoman Karen McKay Bevers said the child, identified by her parents as Piper Lowery, was healthy until recently, then became severely ill and died. Tests confirmed that Lowery's death was flu-related.

It was the second death from the flu so far this season in Kitsap County. An adult died of complications from the flu in November. Statewide, there have been eight lab-confirmed influenza deaths this season.

Bevers said the child who died was the first pediatric death from the flu in Kitsap County since 2009.

"Our hearts go out to the families of these individuals," said Dr. Susan Turner, health officer for the Kitsap County Health District. "These tragedies remind us that influenza can be a very serious illness, especially in young children."

Piper's mother Pegy said her daughter was a miracle child who was conceived after 10 years of trying.

"We just loved her. She was our everything. She was our pretty princess," Pegy said.

Piper got sick last Tuesday, and two trips to urgent care revealed the little girl had influenza AH1N1. Pegy thought she seemed okay until Saturday.

"She said, 'Oh mama' and collapsed right in front of me," Pegy said.

She rushed Piper to the ER. Her kidneys were failing, and three hours later she was gone.

"It's really hard because you want to call her name and ask to her come here," Pegy said.

Health officials said children age 5 or younger, especially those under age 2, are at higher risk for complications from the flu. Others at higher risk include adults age 65 or older and pregnant woman, as well as people with chronic health problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccination. Some children ages 6-months to 8 years of age require two doses of influenza vaccine.

Turner said it is also very important to wash hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or a tissue (not your hands) and stay home when you are ill until you have had no fever for 24 hours.

According to the CDC, children commonly need medical care because of influenza, especially before they turn 5 years old. Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old.

Each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications.

Until last week, Kitsap County had seen very minimal flu activity. But preliminary data now show an increase in influenza - predominantly influenza B, but some influenza A is also circulating.

Last week, the state Department of Health also reported that flu was beginning to increase statewide.

When someone becomes ill, they should drink plenty of fluids, take fever-reducing medication (avoid aspirin in children), and call their health care provider if symptoms become worse.

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