By Jeremy Ross

CHICAGO (CBS) — The flu claims its first young victim in Chicago.

Doctors are now looking into that case and the alarming problem the virus can cause for children. CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross has the story from Rush Medical Center.

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Doctors are seeing a lot of young patients. And earlier onset than in years past. At Rush, officials said they’re seeing more flu than usual, that’s the case across the city of Chicago and beyond.

Hospitals describing flu as hitting earlier and becoming more deadly than in years past, especially for teens and younger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting 27 influenza-related pediatric deaths this season.

Chicago reporting its first of 2020. Most of the deaths around the country, at least 18, connected to a specific strain of the virus, influenza B.

“The one thing that we weren’t predicting was that influenza B would be the most common flu strain circulating,” said pediatric Dr. Marielle Fircchione. She is the medical director of the immunization program at the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“We actually don’t have great data on influenza B because it’s not that common,” Fircchione said.

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She said the CDC has seen the highest number of pediatric flu deaths reported at this point in the flu season since 2003. The agency said since the fall more than 55,000 cases have tested positive. More than 70% of those cases were influenza B.

Dr. Fricchione said she’s seeing similar rates surfacing in Chicago.

One hundred seventy million doses of flu vaccine for people of all ages have been distributed, with doctors continuing to urge people to get immunized.

“It’s not too late to get the flu vaccine,” Fricchione said.

New patient data for Chicago is expected Friday that will show influenza cases leveling off. But that’s no guarantee there won’t be another peak later in the season.


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