East Central High School Student Dies From Influenza

Friday, October 2nd 2009, 6:18 pm
By: News On 6


TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Health Department officials have confirmed a Tulsa County resident under the age of 18 has died from influenza A.

Tulsa Public Schools announced the death is an East Central High School student and reported the student died on Thursday.

The student's family tells The News On 6, the victim is 16-year-old LaTowyn Gaston.

Further laboratory tests will be needed to confirm if the influenza A strain is H1N1 flu, according to the health department.

It is not known at this time if the student had any underlying health conditions.

"The tragic loss of a child in our community is a reminder of how important it is to continue working on ways to prevent further spread of influenza. My deepest sympathies are offered to the child's family," said Interim Director Reggie Ivey.

Gaston's family needs help paying funeral expenses. Donations are being accepted at any Bank of Oklahoma branch to Memorial Fund for LaTowyn Gaston.

Donations may also be made directly to the funeral home:

Keith Biglow
1414 North Norfolk
Tulsa, OK 74106

East Central staff learned of the boy's death Friday morning and sent a telephone notification letting parents know counseling services were available for students Friday and Monday.

The recording also encouraged parents to keep their children at home if they are ill, to encourage frequent hand washing at home, and to be prepared to pick up their children if they become ill at school.

10/02/2009  Related Story: H1N1 Vaccine Beginning To Arrive In Tulsa


Symptoms of the flu include:

• Fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, AND cough/sore throat
• Other symptoms may include headache, chills, muscle aches or fatigue, sore throat, and in some cases vomiting and diarrhea

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish or gray skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Not waking up or not acting right
• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
• Fever with a rash

Ways to Protect the Health of Children:

To keep the flu from spreading to more people, the Tulsa Health Department recommends sick children stay at home. Any children who are sick at school should be sent home. It is important to be alert for signs of illness in your children.

Following are some ways you can slow the spread of germs:

• Children who are sick should stay home and not attend school or go into the community except to seek medical care
• Children should not return to school until fever free for at least 24 hours without fever medication
• Teach children to wash their hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing your ABCs twice).
• Teach children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or by coughing into the inside of the elbow.
• Teach children to avoid close contact with others who are sick.
Groups at High Risk for Complications from Flu
It is particularly important for those who are at high risk for complications from influenza to continue good health habits and to seek medical guidance if they begin to experience flu-like symptoms. High risk groups include:
• Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
• Pregnant women
• People 50 years of age and older
• People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu

Influenza Vaccinations

The Tulsa Health Department is currently able to offer free seasonal flu vaccinations at their area clinics to anyone who wishes to receive the vaccine. A limited supply of H1N1 vaccine is scheduled to arrive in Tulsa County within the next week. With the first shipment of vaccine being a limited amount and in nasal spray form, the Tulsa Health Department will be following established federal protocols and targeting high risk groups first beginning with health care workers who provide direct patient care to those most vulnerable to complications from the flu. Examples include area hospital workers with direct patient care in emergency departments, pediatrics and intensive care units.

The Tulsa Health Department will also utilize the initial vaccine supply to begin implementing their countywide school vaccination program by offering vaccine to students and faculty at Limestone Elementary in Sand Springs. Although many schools are reporting student absences similar to those found during typical flu season, Limestone Elementary is experiencing a higher than usual absentee rate. As vaccine supplies increase in the coming weeks, the Tulsa Health Department will be deploying teams of nurses to area schools who wish to offer the H1N1 vaccine to their faculty and students.

Priority groups to receive H1N1 vaccinations include the following:

• Pregnant women
• Health care workers and emergency medical responders
• People caring for infants less than 6 months of age
• Children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years of age
• Persons aged 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions