Timothy Pior, the Warrenton teen who died of flu-related illness Sunday, is likely the first pediatric flu-related death of the season in Oregon.
The state has reported more than 7,100 positive tests this season for Influenza A, an avian-carried strain of the illness commonly responsible for epidemics, but no deaths. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 64 flu-related deaths so far this season nationally.
“We’re aware of reports of a pediatric death, and we are still collecting information,” said Dr. Richard Leman, a physician with the Oregon Health Authority.
Pior’s family posted on social media Sunday that he died of complications related to Influenza A, the dominant strain so far this season. The family and state health officials have declined to elaborate on the complications or other details about his death.
Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer asked for a moment of silence in remembrance of Pior at the start of a City Commission meeting Tuesday night.
“He was a good kid and when one of our young dies it affects the whole community,” the mayor said. “A part of our community dies with that person.”
Since 2008, there have been 14 reported flu-related deaths in Oregon among people under 18, with an average of about 1 per year. Eight of the people who died were not vaccinated. Some died from a 2009 H1N1 swine flu infection before it was included in the seasonal flu shot.
The percentage of emergency room admissions related to the flu, which over the past two years has peaked in late January to early February, has steadily increased through February and the first half of this month.
Jewell School recently closed for deep cleaning over three days after an outbreak sickened a third of the student population.
Although peaking later, this year’s flu season has so far paled in comparison to last year, when Oregon reported four flu-related deaths.
“I think last year was a particularly nasty year,” Leman said. “We broke our record for hospitalizations.”
This year’s vaccination has been 61 percent effective for those younger than 18 and 47 percent effective for all ages at preventing the flu, Leman said.
A 2017 study by researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics found vaccines were 65 percent effective between 2010 and 2014 at preventing flu-related deaths among children.
Historically, the vaccine has decreased the chances of hospitalization for senior citizens by 60 percent and death by 80 percent, Leman said.
He cautioned people to get vaccinated and take everyday precautions, such as hand-washing and covering coughs and sneezes.
“I wish it were over, but it’s not,” he said. “This is just a season that’s peaked a bit later than in previous years.”