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Loveland Toddler Who Died From Flu A Wake-Up Call For Parents

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) - An 18-month-old girl from Loveland has died from influenza.

The state health department confirms the toddler had the H3N2 strain of the flu. She had received the flu vaccine and is the first pediatric death from the flu this season in Colorado. She didn't have any other medical conditions before falling ill.

The health department says the H3N2 strain isn't covered by this year's flu vaccine.

The state health department says so far this season 248 people have been hospitalized for the flu in 23 counties. About half of those are people 65 years or older.

Doctors have said this year's vaccine is less effective than usual because the strain mutated and some very young children are getting sick.

Kaden O'Neill's mother Amy has been struggling to keep him busy. The 7-year-old was rushed to the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Kaden had the Type A H1N3 -- not the strain that has mutated. He also had enterovirus D-68, a respiratory bug called human metapneumovirus, all on top of asthma.

"He was really sick, he wasn't able to breathe on his own. So they had to hooked him up to a ventilator and he just had wires everywhere," Amy said.

When doctors saw Kaden, he was so sick with the flu, doctors gave him an even chance of not crashing while being transferred to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

For two weeks a machine did Kaden's breathing.

"It was really a wake up for us as to what the flu can do," Amy said.

Amy and Kaden O'Niell
Amy and Kaden O'Niell (credit: CBS)

Dr. Carlos Barajas is a pediatric intensivist who has been treating children with very serious flu.

"Their ability to compensate for infections and things like that are not as good as an adult; they tend to get hit a little harder," Barajas said.

Barajas says a flu shot is still the best protection. Kaden hadn't gotten one yet.

"Make sure kids get the flu shot early because it's one thing you can do to prevent getting in our position," his mother said.

Dr. Suchitra Rao calls this one of the worst flu season's in years, triggered by a change in the H3N2 strain that caught drug-makers off guard.

"There's been a slight shift. A slight mutation in the type of virus we're seeing this year... The vaccine strain is a little different than what's circulating currently," Rao said.

The current vaccine is only 40 percent effective against the dominate flu strain this season. Still, doctors say it's necessary because it blocks other strains of the virus.

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