Death of 11-year-old from flu complications 'haunts all of us' (2022)

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By Sandra Tan

Luca Calanni was a healthy, 11-year-old boy.

He got his flu shot months ago.

And no one considered the child who played four sports a high-risk case.

Yet three days after first seeing a doctor for the flu, Luca said goodnight to his parents from a hospital bed, told them he loved them and closed his eyes. He never opened them again.

He became the second child this flu season in New York State to die of complications of the illness.

Those who loved the outgoing and giving child who had lots of friends are struggling for answers, only to come up empty – including the pediatrician who has treated Luca since the boy was born.

Dr. Steven Lana recalled visiting him the day he was admitted to Oishei Children's Hospital. Luca was talking and joking.

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Lana tried to describe the devastating impact his death has had on everyone responsible for his care, the difficulty of accepting the child was beyond the saving reach of modern medicine.

"It's beyond words," he said.

Lana, who spoke about the case with the consent of Luca's family, said no standard of medical treatment was overlooked. There were no hesitations, no delays. Nothing his parents did was anything but exactly what they should have done.

He has no answer for why Luca's heart suddenly gave out at 4 a.m. on Jan. 9. He might never have one.

"That's the part that really haunts all of us," he said.

The beginning

There was nothing in Luca's life that suggested he was frail.

In fact, his parents had to start telling him no because he wanted to play so many sports.

Aside from his athletic skills, Luca was the kind of healthy eater who would shun grilled cheese sandwiches for Brussels sprouts and sushi, his mother said.

Luca was taken to see Lana on Monday, Jan. 6, within a day or two of showing flu symptoms. He and his two younger sisters, a 3-month-old infant and a 9-year-old, tested positive for influenza A and received doses of Tamiflu, a drug designed to shorten the length and severity of the flu.

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The next morning, Luca was back to the doctor's office because of swelling around his eyes. His mother wondered if he might be having an allergic reaction, Lana said, though Luca had also received Tamiflu the season before, with no adverse effects. Luca did not seem any sicker otherwise, and he went home.

But by Wednesday morning, Luca's condition had deteriorated. This time, Lana sent him directly from the Delaware Pediatrics office to Children's Hospital. He was in intensive care by noon.

As the rest of the day progressed, doctors became heartened.

"He appeared to be stable and getting better," Lana said.

He was doing well enough that doctors talked about transferring Luca out of intensive care the next day.

In light of the optimistic news, Ashley and Roger Calanni, his parents, finally said goodnight to him. His father rubbed his back. His mother held his hand.

"He said, 'Mom, I love you. I’ll see you in the morning.' "

Luca's heart stopped beating at 4 a.m. Nothing brought him back. He stayed on life support a couple of days in hopes of miracle.

But Ashley Calanni said, "I knew in my heart he was gone."

The shock

When Lana learned Luca had catastrophic heart failure, he couldn't fathom the news.

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Nothing in Luca's background fit the description of a high-risk flu case. Moreover, even if he had suffered from flu complications, he said, doctors would have expected respiratory complications, even neurologic complications.

Why the flu virus attacked Luca's heart remains a mystery.

"We can't wrap our arms around this," he said. "The bottom line is sometimes when something is done perfectly correctly, you can still have a tragic outcome. This is just a reminder that there are some things we don’t know, some things we can’t know. We do what we can. We do the best that we can. There are no guarantees."

Luca's case is particularly alarming to many since he had been vaccinated and received Tamiflu, an antiviral flu medication.

Being vaccinated is no guarantee someone will not contract the flu. It is designed, however, to lower the risk. This year's vaccine was created to protect against two forms of influenza A and two forms of influenza B.

Influenza B was the more prevalent flu virus spreading across the state in December and early January even though it's not normally seen until March or April. But the vaccine was expected to be a better match for at least one strain of influenza A.

Lana said Luca had influenza A, but it's not yet known exactly which type. He is one of 32 children nationwide to die of the flu this season, and among a minority to die from an infection of influenza A.

Despite Luca's death, Lana said, no one should hesitate to get vaccinated. He and other health professionals stress that research shows the vaccine remains the best protection that people have to ward off the flu. Neither should they shun other antiviral flu treatments, he said.

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"There are millions of doses of influenza given, millions of doses of Tamiflu given," he said. "What is the outcome there? Certainly not this."

Remembering Luca

Ashley Calanni, who was preparing Thursday for her son's wake, said she doesn't blame anyone for her son's death. Everyone who treated Luca did their best, she said, and the family is grateful.

"They did everything, everything," she said. "You will do anything for that child. That’s all that my husband and I did, and I know the staff and Women and Children’s, they did everything they could."

Luca's parents want their son to be remembered as more than a flu death statistic. They want him to be remembered for how he lived.

Luca was one who worried for others, not for himself, his mother said. The family wants Luca remembered for how he would always try to sit next to someone new at school, how he'd hang out with the school nurse sometimes because he felt bad when she ate lunch alone, how he found ways to help kids who had fewer opportunities than him.

He doted on his two younger sisters, 9-year-old Talia and 3-month-old Frankie, for whom he played the Beatles song "Here Comes the Sun" every day.

When his older sister, Isabella, worried about attending the graduation party of a family friend, Luca – who greeted everyone with handshake and a smile – said he didn't understand her concern about not knowing anyone there and proceeded to show her how introductions were done.

"You just go up to people and say, 'Hi, my name is Luca Calanni,' " he told her.

When Luca learned his mom was expecting a new baby, he cried because he feared there would not be enough room for everyone on the rides at Disney World.

Luca wasn't just known among his fifth grade friends and teachers at Pinehurst Elementary School in Hamburg. He also played on two soccer teams, a basketball team and the Frontier lacrosse team, as well as participating in local junior PGA golf.

Two weeks ago, while at a gas station, Luca told his father that he should buy a lottery ticket. If they won, they should use the money to help all the other kids who didn't have the same chances to experience everything he had. In that spirit, the family asks that friends contribute to the Luca S. Calanni Foundation, which will donate the money to other families for that purpose.

That's what Luca wanted, Ashley Calanni said. The foundation will ensure their son's memory lives on.

"His name means 'giver of light,' " said his mother. "And I think that, in a nutshell, is Luca."


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"Dave and I, we did everything right — by bringing her to the doctor, and getting her a flu shot, and keeping her home from school," said Pugh.. Emma poses for a photo with her parents, Christy and Dave.Christy Pugh When Emma was first sent home from school, her flu symptoms were not terrible.. Emma got the vaccine," noted Faustino.. "But if we don't vaccinate, we're going to see a lot more children having complications of flu.. In reality people can die from the flu.". Some believe you can get the flu from the flu shot.. Pugh and Splan are advocates of the flu shot and encourage friends and family to get vaccinated.

How many people die from the flu?. While most cases of the flu resolve on their own, the flu can become life-threatening if complications like pneumonia arise alongside it.. However, it’s difficult to accurately track how many cases of the flu each year lead to death from complications.. States aren’t required to report flu diagnoses in adults to the CDC, so it’s likely that adult deaths associated with flu go under-reported.. Flu can directly lead to death when the virus triggers severe inflammation in the lungs.. In adults, symptoms of life-threatening flu complications include:. Life-threatening symptoms in babies include:. irritability and refusing to be held inability to drink enough, leading to dehydration breathing rapidly stiffness or pain in the neck headache that isn’t alleviated with over-the-counter pain relievers trouble breathing a blue tinge to the skin, chest, or face inability to interact difficulty waking up seizures. People with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of developing complications — and possibly dying — from the flu.. When your immune system is weakened, you’re more likely to experience viruses and infections in a more severe form.. children 18 and under who are taking aspirin- or salicylate-based medications women who are pregnant or are less than two weeks postpartum anyone who experiences chronic illness people who have compromised immune systems people living in long-term care, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes people who have a BMI of 40 or over organ donor recipients who take anti-rejection drugs people living in close quarters (like members of the military) people with HIV or AIDS. Your best chance at preventing the flu is by getting a flu vaccine every year, at any time during flu season.. Every year, up to four strains are included in the vaccine.. Getting the flu vaccine also helps protect the people you love from catching the flu from you.. The CDC recommends flu vaccines for everyone older than 6 months.

The total includes deaths between Oct. 16 and Jan. 13.. During last year’s flu season, 110 children died from the flu between November 2016 and September 2017, with 17 pediatric deaths reported through the second week of January last year.. During the 2015-2016 flu season, 92 children died from the flu, with 10 child deaths by this point in the season.. But about 40% of children who die from influenza every year have no preexisting conditions, DeBiasi says.. Several otherwise healthy adults have died of flu-like illnesses in the last month, as well.. On Jan. 12, Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of the CDC’s influenza’s division, said that hospitalizations for children under 5 had “almost doubled in the last week.” A total of 8,990 confirmed flu-related hospitalizations have been reported to the CDC since Oct. 1, with the highest rates among adults 65 and up, followed by adults 50 to 64 and children under 5.

Here we look at how flu can become life threatening, which people have a higher risk of complications, and what preventive steps a person can take against the flu.. Share on Pinterest An annual flu vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu.. Certain people are at higher risk of flu complications, such as older adults, children, and pregnant women.. States in the U.S. do not need to report a case of flu or flu-related death to the CDC for anyone over 18 years of age.. Also, doctors may not record flu as the cause of death when people die from flu-related complications.. 39 million–56 million cases of flu illnesses 18 million–26 million flu medical visits 410,000–740,000 hospitalizations due to flu 24,000–62,000 flu deaths. adults aged 65 years or older children under 5 years of age, especially those under 2 years pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after pregnancy chronic lung disease, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) heart disease cancer chronic kidney or liver disease children or adolescents taking long-term aspirin treatment conditions that compromise the immune system, such as HIV and AIDS treatments that compromise the immune system, such as chemotherapy or steroids morbid obesity diabetes neurological conditions. If people have symptoms of the flu, they will need to stay home to aid recovery and prevent passing the virus to others.. The flu vaccine is particularly important for people who have a higher risk of complications.. If people are less at risk of flu complications, getting the vaccine can help to prevent passing the virus on to people who are more vulnerable to infection.. Certain populations of people are more at risk of severe flu complications.. People can take precautions to help prevent getting flu.. If people have severe or worsening flu symptoms or unusual symptoms, such as shortness of breath, they should see their doctor straight away.

The death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy in government custody on Christmas Eve was caused by complications from the flu and a bacterial infection, according to autopsy report released by a U.S. medical examiner.. Guatemalan boy died of flu and a bacterial infection while in US custody, autopsy shows The death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died while in US custody was caused by complications from the flu and a bacterial infection, the Central American country's foreign ministry said Outrageious!. The death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy in justice league custody on Christmas Eve was caused by complications from the flu and a bacterial infection, according to autopsy report released by a U.S. medical examiner.. Migrant girl who died in US custody had 'rapidly progressive infection,' autopsy finds An autopsy report was released Friday for Jakelin Caal Maquin, the Guatemalan migrant girl who died in El Paso after being in Border Patrol custody.. Autopsy: Migrant child who died in US custody had infection EL PASO, Texas (AP) — An autopsy has found that a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of a bacterial infection while detained by the U.S. Border Patrol.. Autopsy determines 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died from sepsis while in US custody A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in US Customs and Border Protection custody last year died from sepsis, an autopsy report says That’s so sad!!!. Guatemala: 2nd child dead in US custody had flu, infection GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died while in custody of the U.S. border patrol on Christmas Eve died of the flu and a bacterial infection, authorities in the Central American nation said Monday.. (CNN)The death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died while in United States custody was caused by complications from the flu and a bacterial infection, the Central American country's foreign ministry said.Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, died of an infection that led to organ failure, according to an autopsy report.| 12:10 PM Noah McIntosh, 8, has been missing since early this month.. The cause is under investigation.Why the family of the boy who died in Border Patrol custody decided to send him northThe New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said it has not finalized its autopsy report on Felipe's death, said Alexandra Sanchez, the office's spokeswoman.

Shannon is part of grim new statistics released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that the flu has reached an epidemic level in the United States this year.. It’s still early in the flu season, which often begins in early fall and persists through May, so it remains to be seen exactly how pervasive the flu will be.. Her father was vaccinated, but her mother was not because she had a bad reaction to a swine flu vaccine in the 1970s, she said.. (“If a person has had a serious allergic reaction to flu vaccines in the past, this might be a contraindication to getting one, but they should talk with their doctor to understand if that reaction is relevant to the decision to get a vaccine now,” says Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the CDC’s Influenza Division.). The CDC said it does not yet have information on how many of those killed by the flu this year were vaccinated.. Still, getting vaccinated is “the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others” and “may make your illness milder if you do get sick,” according to the CDC.. “Most flu vaccines protect against three or four different strains of flu actually, so even if it’s not a great match against one particular strain, it will still protect you against the other strains that are going around right now.”. That’s higher than it was at the same time last year, but later on in the season, the percentage of deaths blamed on the flu generally goes higher.. Thirty-seven deaths were blamed on the flu in the 2011 to 2012 season; the next season, 2012-2013, there were 171 deaths, the CDC says.. Shannon Zwanziger, 17, seemed perfectly healthy, got the flu and died within a week

These figures show the number of deaths where influenza, pneumonia or Covid-19 are mentioned on the death certificate, not those where they were listed as the underlying cause of death.. This makes it misleading to say that these are cases where people necessarily died “of” the disease, or were “killed by” it, because in many cases influenza and pneumonia are only mentioned as factors in a death where the underlying cause was something else.. With pneumonia included, the total number of people dying of pneumonia or flu is probably higher than the number dying of Covid-19 at the moment, but not by the margin that these headlines suggest.. In its bulletin on the number of deaths being registered in England and Wales each week, the ONS reports the number of “deaths involving COVID-19”, which means the number of death certificates that mention Covid-19 somewhere, whether or not it was the underlying cause.. This matters, because when Covid-19 is mentioned on a death certificate, it is much more likely to be the underlying cause of someone’s death than when pneumonia or influenza is.. Up to the end of June 2020 in England and Wales, Covid-19 was the underlying cause of death on about 93% of the death certificates that mentioned it.. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 , however, influenza or pneumonia were listed as the underlying cause of death on just 28% of the death certificates in England that mentioned either of them.. Another problem is that the reporting often summarised these deaths involving “influenza and pneumonia” as being deaths from “flu”, which is incorrect.. The phrase “influenza and pneumonia” used by the ONS may have caused confusion here, because it sounds like it refers to death certificates that mention both, and so could be simplified to just “flu”.. This means that a death counted in the “Influenza and pneumonia” category could be someone who died after having pneumonia, or after having flu, or after having both.. As we have seen, most of the people with influenza or pneumonia mentioned somewhere on their death certificate probably did not die with either as the underlying cause.. In other words, on average, about 23 people died each week last year and had flu identified as the underlying cause of death (although this is likely an undercount and the disease may have been an important factor in many other deaths).. Over the same period there were 1,013 deaths registered with influenza or pneumonia, but not Covid-19, mentioned on the death certificate.. If we’re looking just at flu and 4.6% of those people who died had flu as the underlying cause identified on the death certificate, that would make just 13 people "killed by flu” in the same week.

That is more than double the death toll of the 2016-17 flu season and six times the number from 2015-16, the Bulletin found when analyzing data that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains on death certificates.. Recent news reports have shown a CDC estimate of 80,000 total flu deaths in the U.S. in the past year, based on a different method of statistical analysis that tries to assess where flu may have been a factor in a person’s death even if it isn’t listed on a death certificate.. Nearly 80 percent of those who died from flu were 65 or older — 12,230 — a significant increase over recent years.. A so-called universal flu vaccine would protect people against all strains of flu instead of just a few and would be needed only once every few years instead of every year.. In its best years, the flu vaccine is 60 percent effective, meaning people who get a flu shot are 60 percent less likely to get the disease than people who do not get a shot.. For years, researchers vastly overestimated the flu vaccine’s effectiveness on people age 65 and older.. A high-dose flu vaccine for individuals 65 and older, Fluzone High-Dose, has been shown to be more effective, according to the CDC.. “We had been hearing after the high-dose vaccine came out that a lot of clinics weren’t even buying it,” Lofy says.. Lofy says she does not know how many clinics offered the high-dose vaccine in 2017-18 or how many people received it.


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