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The Daily



12-12-03: One-year-old girl is first Ohioan to die of flu this season


Mercer County Health Department ran out of flu vaccine Thursday as nearly 500 people, mostly children, were vaccinated throughout the day. Local parents, worried as more young children across the nation are reportedly dying from one of the active flu strains, were willing to wait in line.
The Ohio Department of Health has confirmed the death of a 14-month-old girl from Bainbridge as the first flu-related death in Ohio this season. Typically Ohio has 3,000 flu- and pneumonia-related deaths each year, according to a state health department spokesperson.
As of this morning, health departments in Mercer and Auglaize counties report 100 and 76 cases of flu, respectively.
At yesterday’s clinic in Mercer County, folks lined up early, took a number and filled the hallways hoping the health department wouldn’t run out of shots.
Michelle Muter of Celina and two of her three children carved out a space on the floor near the top of the “adults with children” line. Muter arrived early but still would be 41st to receive the shots.
“Two of my kids and I got our shots last Thursday. But, by the time Sarah got home from school they were out of shots, so we’re back today,” Muter said, adding this is the first year her children have been vaccinated.
“I’m taking no chances. My 16-month-old niece in Indiana died last week. They don’t know if it was the flu, but they do know it was a viral infection,” Muter said, her eyes misting. “I’m doing all I can to protect my kids.”
Although it is recommended that children under 8 years old get two shots, the primary and a booster, one month apart to vaccinate from the flu, Auglaize County Health Department’s Deb Scheer said children will get coverage with the first shot.
“Even though that second, or booster, shot may not be available in January, we recommend children have the first shot,” she said this morning via telephone.
Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys reached full capacity earlier this week due to patients with the flu. The hospital again was accepting in-patients Thursday and today, and always has been open to emergency situations or anyone getting outpatient care, a spokesperson said this morning.
Mercer County Community Hospital Nursing Supervisor Phyllis Baltes this morning said the Coldwater hospital is not full, but they have numerous flu patients, the majority being children.
As the local hospitals saw more cases of the flu, there was some grumbling at the health department in Celina on Thursday as the wait for the vaccination made many fussy.
One senior citizen told The Daily Standard she arrived 90 minutes before shots were scheduled and was third in line. She left the building at about 10:20 a.m., shaking her head and complaining about the disorganization.
Others also were grumbling about direction signs posted too low in the hallways causing people to get in the wrong line.
People with lower numbers who chose to wait near the outside doorway to get some fresh air were surprised to discover there were no provisions to hear their number called. Many missed their turn. A health department staffer at the adult sign-in table said other staffers were trying to holler out numbers.
Sally Bowman, director of nursing at the health department, told The Daily Standard this morning the sheer number of people was a surprise.
“We didn’t expect the crowd we got yesterday. We don’t have a large facility and we have only three nurses. We did the best we could to get people through as fast as possible,” Bowman said. “There’s only so much we can do with our small staff.”
To accommodate those still waiting in line at 5:30 p.m., the clinic’s normal closing time, Bowman held the clinic open another three hours. When they finally ran out of vaccine, a few people had to be turned away.
“We’re working with the state to get more doses, but there’s no way to tell when or if we can get it,” Bowman said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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