From Oct. 1 through Sunday, Ballad’s hospitals recorded 4,152 positive influenza cases and 23 flu-related deaths, two more than had been reported through Feb. 10, according to statistics released Monday. The numbers were only from emergency departments and did not include figures from urgent care providers and private physician offices.
According to Johnson City Schools officials, a student from North Side Elementary School died over the weekend. Federal privacy laws prevented school officials from disclosing information pertaining to the child’s identity. The administration had no information related to the cause of death.
“One of our students passed away. That’s all we know at this point. We don’t have any information about that,” Dr. Debra Bentley said. “We are very limited in what we can discuss because of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) regulations.”
Family members and local organizations, however, stated on social media that the child’s death resulted from complications from flu. The Johnson City Press has elected to preserve the family’s privacy by not publishing the child’s name.
On Monday afternoon, Johnson City Schools Superintendent Steve Barnett expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the student.
“Today is a sad day in the Johnson City school district as we have lost one of our own,” Barnett said in a statement to the Press. “I would like to express, on behalf of the entire Johnson City Schools, our deepest sympathies for the family of our student. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.”
School officials said they were providing students, families and staff members with additional counseling support in the aftermath of the student’s death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that East Tennessee as a whole has witnessed a higher number of reported flu cases compared to the rest of the state, based on recent numbers from the week of Feb. 4-10.
In East Tennessee, 9.4 percent of patients reported flu-like symptoms compared to the state’s 6.22 percent during that time. In Northeast Tennessee, that number is 6.3 percent, while 20.4 percent of patients have reported influenza-like symptoms at one Knoxville-Knox County health care provider.
Such high flu numbers have prompted some area schools to shut down for periods. University School, a public K-12 school operated by East Tennessee State University’s College of Education, closed for two days earlier in February, with 14 percent of students out with illnesses.
Bentley said Johnson City Schools officials had not considered closing because the attendance rate was at 94 percent.