Flu death toll rising in Washington; 5-year-old Pierce County girl among fatalities

TACOMA -- The Pierce County medical examiner has confirmed that a 5-year-old girl died from the flu.

The child’s mother simply thought her daughter had a bad cold but died just days later.

So far, 24 people have died from the flu across the state; ten people have died from the flu in Pierce County.

The 5-year-old girl, Scarlet Taylor, loved to sing and she was full of life. But last month her mother, Rebecca, said the school nurse told her to pick up Scarlet.

Rebecca took Scarlet home to recover.

“She was snuggled up in a little ball, she said. “I could hear breathing and it was this rattle noise. She kind of looked at me in sort of a daze.”

But then Scarlet’s symptoms became worse. She was rushed to the hospital with a fever of 103 degrees but she didn’t survive.

Medical examiners found the H3N2 flu strain in Scarlet’s body.

Her mother now shares a warning with other parents.

“Go with your gut,” said Rebecca. “Don’t be afraid to be that overreacting mother or father or caregiver.”

This year’s flu season is packing a major punch. So far at least 24 people have died statewide, but most cases are on the west side of Washington state.

Last year, 10 people died of flu in Pierce County – and it's not yet know if this year’s flu season has peaked.

“Last year there were 10 flu-related deaths through the entire season, which lasted into the springtime,” said Edie Jeffers with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “It’s difficult to know when the flu season is peaking until we can look back.”

Little scarlet did not get the flu shot but it may not have protected her against the H3N2 strain.

Heath officials are still urging everyone to get the vaccine that’s available right now.

“This year’s vaccine thus far has not been the best match for that strain but it’s still a means of protection,” said Jeffers.

Tacoma schools said so far there have not been any spikes in absenteeism.

Bottom line is if you think you’re sick, just stay home and give your doctor a call.