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Officials urge precautions after Lakeview boy dies from flu-related complications

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Families and staff in the Frontier Central School District are mourning the death of a student.

Schools Superintendent Richard Hughes announced the death of 11-year-old Luca Callani on the district website. Hughes said Calanni passed away Saturday after complications of the flu and was a student at Pinehurst Elementary in Lakeview.

Social workers and counselors were made available at Pinehurst and other schools Monday. This is not the first local death related to influenza, but the first this season.

Oshei Children's Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Turkovich said Monday he can't give details about the boy, but said he was healthy before the flu. He said the hospital has been hit with an avalanche of pediatric flu cases, requiring two pediatric ICUs.

"Every year throughout the United States we do see children who, unfortunately, pass away from the flu," Turkovich said. "It's heartbreaking and devastating any time we have a child who dies."

Turkovich said the hospital has seen about 335 admissions with respiratory diseases so far, 300 of which have been RSV and 11% the flu. He said it's not too late to get a flu shot and he encouraged everyone who hasn't had one to get the vaccination.

The latest numbers from the Erie County Health Department show a 34% increase in the number of flu-related hospitalizations for the first week of January, compared to the previous week. Overall flu-related cases are also up. Of more than 10,000 suspected cases in the week, about a third were found to be positive for the flu.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said Monday Callani is the second pediatric flu-related death this year in New York State. According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of Jan. 4 there have been 32 pediatric flu-related deaths across the country.

"We're seeing much more flu this season compared to other years," Burstein said. "Many strains of flu cause severe illness."

Burstein said if children are sick and having difficulty breathing and coughing, they should be seen by a healthcare provider right away. She urged anyone who hasn't already been immunized to receive a flu shot and also encouraged frequent hand-washing to prevent spread of the disease.

Credit Erie County Health Department
Positive influenza laboratory results by season in Erie County.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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