7-year-old Ohio boy dies after flu-related illness

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – A 7-year-old boy from East Liverpool has died after a flu-related illness.

East Liverpool’s Health Commissioner Carol Cowan said Colton Williams was in and out of the emergency room on Friday and Saturday. The boy was diagnosed with the flu and died on Saturday.

East Liverpool School Superintendent Randy Taylor identified the child as a first-grade student at North Elementary School.

He read a statement at Monday’s board of education meeting about the unfortunate death:

On behalf of our entire staff, our hearts go out to Colton’s parents and his family this evening. They will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers as they face this unimaginable, difficult time in their lives. Colton will be sorely missed by his Potter family.”

An East Liverpool school nurse passed out a CDC guide for parents about the flu, but Cowan assured them the district schools are safe.

“They have done an excellent job in just cleaning and making sure they contact the parents.”

This is the second pediatric flu death in Columbiana County in the past two weeks and the fourth in the state. A 6-year-old girl died last week in Cuyahoga County and a 7-year-old girl died in Fulton County.

The county’s health department called the two deaths unusual.

“There is no indication that we have an outbreak of a novel virus, something unique here. We are still learning a lot about both of these as well as other cases around the state,” said Columbiana County Health Commissioner Wes Vins.

North Elementary School was on a two-hour delay Monday while faculty and school nurses attended meetings about influenza.

Over the weekend, the school did a regular cleaning of the buildings.

County Flu Hospitalizations
Source: Ohio Department of Health

Monday, the Columbiana County Coroner completed an autopsy, which will confirm whether the boy had preexisting conditions that were exacerbated by the flu.

“Everyone is individual. There could be a compromised situation we’re not even aware of. That’s what we’ll be working on to find out. That will come later in lab testing,” Cowan said.

The 7-year-old girl who died in Fulton County after being diagnosed with the flu had a heart defect, which was determined to be her cause of death.

Flu season normally peaks from December through February, and 20 children have already died from influenza in the U.S. this season.

The Center for Disease Control said flu activity throughout the U.S. has been spiking, but health officials don’t believe this year’s flu strain is any more severe than those in the past.

The Columbiana County Health Department said flu-related hospitalizations are also up locally.

“The number of hospitalizations have increased. Flu activity has increased, but we do not see an outbreak condition. We do see large absentee rates at schools of faculty or students at this point,” Vins said.

Ohio Department of Health Seasonal Influenza Activity Summary
Courtesy: Ohio Department of Health Seasonal Influenza Activity Summary


Health officials said there is no shortage of the flu vaccine in East Liverpool or Columbiana County, and they’re urging parents to have their kids vaccinated.

“We’re seeing a lot of it. We test it here in our office. There’s a flu A strain and a flu B strain, and the flu shot, it seems like it’s been doing okay covering this year’s flu,” said Dr. Mike Sevilla.

According to the CDC, the flu virus is spread mainly by droplets made when people cough, sneeze, or talk. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, running or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.

“If you start to have symptoms of fever or cough and the kid’s just not looking like themselves, they should see their doctor immediately or go to the ER immediately,” Sevilla said.

Call your doctor if the following symptoms occur:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids (or going to the bathroom as usual)
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu symptoms improve but then return with fever or a worse cough
  • Has other conditions (like heart or lung disease, diabetes or asthma) and develops flu symptoms

The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get the flu vaccination to help prevent the virus. It’s especially important that young children and children with long-term health conditions get vaccinated, as well as caregivers or young children.

The CDC also recommends the following tips to prevent the spread of flu:

  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • If your child is sick with flu illness, try to keep him or her in a separate room from others in the household, if possible
  • CDC recommends that your sick child stay home for at least 24 hours after his or her fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Clean and disinfect hard surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs

If your child gets sick, make sure he or she gets plenty of rest and drinks enough fluids.

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