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Research may explain why some children die from flu

NORWALK —   “It comes in waves” is how the mother of a Norwalk first grader, who died from the flu Sunday, describes the grief she and her hus...
CDC back at work to track the flu

NORWALK --   "It comes in waves" is how the mother of a Norwalk first grader, who died from the flu Sunday, describes the grief she and her husband are experiencing.

Several days before six-year-old Emma Splan died, her doctor had written a prescription for the anti-viral, Tamiflu.

"But, there is a shortage, I guess, here in the tri-state area, and individuals that are not under the age of two or over the age of 70 are being denied Tamiflu right now," said Sarah Lutkus, a close family friend.

Tamiflu, if given early enough, reduces the severity of the flu virus, but it does not cure you.

"It probably saves you a day or two, maybe, of the illness," said Dr. Zane Saul, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Bridgeport Hospital.

The question that this and so many other families have is how could a perfectly healthy child, like Emma, take such a quick, fatal turn.

According to Dr. Saul, a recent study in mice showed a child's immune system can become hyperactive with the flu.

"That leads to marked inflammation in the lungs and it impairs the ability for the patient to breathe and for us to be able to adequately oxygenate the child," he said.

He adds that children "under nine need two flu shots, one month apart, to have adequate immunity and we’re finding that that has not happened in all the cases."

Emma's mother said her daughter, an only child, received one flu shot, in September, as directed by her pediatrician, Dr. Arthur Dobos.

As of Wednesday evening, nearly $60,000 had been contributed to a GoFundMe page  set up to defray funeral expenses and contribute to some of Emma Splan's favorite causes, including less fortunate classmates.

"She made sure that her parents would split her allowance in two so that whatever she was earning she would buy for the other two kids in her class," said Mrs. Lutkus.

Emma's wake is being held Saturday, at Collins Funeral Home in Norwalk, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.