BRADENTON -- The family of an 11-year-old Bradenton boy has confirmed he died of rare complications from the flu.
Tony Garcia died Dec. 17, more than a month after he was diagnosed with influenza A, according to his mother, Frances Flores.
Although the Manatee County Health Department could not confirm Tony Garcia was the boy who died, it did confirm there has been an "influenza-associated pediatric death in Manatee County," Carrie Harter, director of disease control for Manatee County Health Department, said Tuesday.
"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this child," Harter added.
So far, this flu season, three influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported to Florida Department of Health, said Megan Jourdan, a Manatee County Health Department spokeswoman.
Seven influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported all year, Jourdan added.
Flu symptoms include headache, fever, severe cough, sore throat, runny nose or body aches, Jourdan said.
Flores said her son complained of a headache Nov. 14 and later developed a fever.
When he didn't improve, she took him to a pediatrician who told her to continue administering care and he would get better. When he had trouble breathing a few days later, she took him to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg where he was diagnosed with "necrotizing bronchial pneumonia."
His condition worsened when doctors tried to drain fluid on his lungs. His heart
stopped beating and he was placed on life support.
Health officials said they do not know exactly why the boy's flu evolved into bronchial pneumonia.
"Influenza is a common infection and there can be complications that arise," Harter said. "The best protection is the seasonal flu vaccine and it is not too late to get it."
Harter also said rumors this year's flu shot doesn't give any protection for one of this season's four flu strains is not true.
"It does provide mild protection for the one it doesn't cover completely," Harter said.
Harter said she could not comment if Tony Garcia had a flu shot or contracted the flu strain least covered by the shot.
"We can't address that," Harter said.
The influenza season typically runs from the beginning of October through the end of May. Jourdan said. The 2014-15 influenza season started Sept. 28 and will run through May 19, Jourdan said.
People who are ill can help prevent the spread of flu and other viruses by staying home from work or school when sick, covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands frequently, Jourdan said.
The Manatee County Health Department is giving free flu shots for children ages 18 and younger, Harter said. Come to Health Department, 410 Sixth Ave. E., Bradenton, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, Harter said.
The department is closed Thursday and Friday for the holidays.
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including DOH-Manatee, doctor's offices, clinics, retail stores, pharmacies, health centers and many employers and schools. Check with your physician or go to floridahealth.gov/prevention-safety-and-wellness/flu-prevention/locate-a-flu-shot.html to search for a flu-vaccine dispensing location.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.