Flu Kills Another Child In Wisconsin; Problem With Coronavirus Test Kits

Feb 13, 2020

Wisconsin health officials say a second child has died from the flu this winter, and there's been a big rise this week in flu-related hospitalizations.

The Department of Health Services says it also still regards the coronavirus as a very serious matter despite no new additional cases of that reported in Wisconsin. Also, officials say the coronavirus diagnostic test kits the state received from the Centers for Disease Control are flawed.

Flu in Wisconsin

State officials won't say much about the latest pediatric flu death, except that the child is under 18 and the death was in southern Wisconsin. 

"This makes a total of two [deaths] we've had this year. The number of cases nationally have been increasing in double digits for the last few weeks. And that again has to do with hypoviruses that are circulating, most of which hit the younger population," says Tom Haupt, who's coordinating influenza surveillance for the Department of Health Services. He spoke with the news media Thursday afternoon during a conference call.

READ: Wisconsin Health Officials Seeing Record Number Of Flu Cases So Far This Season

The first flu-related child death in the state happened about one month ago in southeast Wisconsin. That victim was under 10 years old.  

About 30 Wisconsin adults have died from the flu this winter.

Haupt also warns that flu-related hospitalizations are going up quickly, including many people from ages 18 to 49, which is unusual. There were 100 hospitalizations statewide Thursday morning alone, and Haupt says by later Friday, more than 500 people will have been admitted to the hospital this week for the flu — an increase from last week.

He says getting the flu vaccine is still the best means of protection. Haupt says 40% of Wisconsin residents have been vaccinated, which is a record. But that means 60% aren't vaccinated for the flu.

"It is not too late to get the vaccine. The vaccine is safe and in adequate supply. We encourage anyone, even at this stage, to get the influenza vaccine to protect yourself and protect those people who are around you," Haupt said.

He adds that the state probably won't be at peak activity for the flu for a couple more weeks, and then there will be many weeks of high activity. 

Haupt says it's too early to say why cases of flu are up this year. He says federal health officials will soon have a report on the effectiveness of this winter's flu vaccine. 

Coronavirus test kits

As to the presence of COVID-19, the official name of the new coronavirus, in Wisconsin, there's still only one confirmed case, which was in Dane County. All 14 other state residents tested for the virus have been cleared.

READ: Wisconsin Confirms First Case Of 2019 Novel Coronavirus

There is a new wrinkle though. Allen Bateman, with the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, says the test kits the CDC sent to Wisconsin and other states last week are flawed. 

"We realize this isn't ideally how this could have played out. We hoped to do testing by now, but our quality control systems were able to identify this issue, which is being fixed," Bateman said.

Bateman says part of the test kit is being remanufactured. He hopes the new kits will be in Wisconsin next week.