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NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – A four-year-old girl from central New Jersey is the latest child confirmed to have died from the flu virus.

Health officials say she did not get a flu shot and died in December.

To combat this year’s active flu season beyond advising people to get their flu shots, the largest healthcare provider in New York state is taking a new approach.

It’s all hands on deck at the emergency operations unit at Northwell Health on Long Island. With a cutting-edge biosurveillance system, they can take information from all their hospitals in almost real time, bypassing the typical one to two-week time lag on information from state and federal health officials.

Vice president of emergency management Mary Mahoney said the system is a game changer. If they see a spike, they are ready to act and send resources if needed.

“So things like do we have enough masks to protect our patients and our families and our staff,” said Mahoney. “If a large number of this population is pediatric population, do we have the appropriate doses of Tamiflu if we’re going to be treating them with Tamiflu.”

This season at least 39 children have died from flu-related complications in at least 25 states and that number is expected to rise.

“Kids are vulnerable because of their immune system. They’re young, they haven’t been exposed to this before, so their body attacks them full on,” said Dr. Eric Gottesman, Director of the Intensive Care Unit at North Shore University Hospital.

When asked at what point should a person go to the hospital if they think they have the flu, Gottesman said,”you’re having problems breathing, becoming lethargic, and coughing up yellow, green — a lot of yellow-green sputum– then it’s time to get to the emergency room.”

Northwell’s biosurveillance unit could become a model for other hospital systems. It could help health officials hone in zip codes and more specific locations for targeted outreach. It could also be used to track and respond to other infectious disease outbreaks in the future.


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