Thursday, December 18, 2003

No autopsy sought for infant

By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The parents of an 11-month-old girl who had the flu and died this week say it is not important to them whether health officials determine the exact cause of her death.

No autopsy on Olivia Harrison, who died at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, is being requested, her parents said Wednesday. She suffered enough.

"We're satisfied that doctors did everything they could to save her," said Olivia's mother, Joyce Harrison, 36, of Forest Park.

Olivia's death is not officially being blamed on flu. The Ohio Department of Health is waiting for more information.

But Olivia's parents, speaking at a news conference at the hospital, said the toddler tested positive for Type-A influenza when they brought her to the emergency room Saturday evening. Over the next 24 hours, the virus quickly caused her body's respiratory system to shut down, they said.

"I want everyone to know that Olivia was chosen for this," said her father Terence Harrison, 32. "God called her home."

Joyce Harrison, a dialysis nurse who works in Blue Ash, said that her daughter - who would have celebrated her 1-year birthday Dec. 26 - became ill Saturday morning with a cough and fever. The symptoms did not appear severe enough initially to warrant extra concern. By evening, though, the child became lethargic and the family rushed to the hospital.

Olivia had received half a dose of the flu vaccine this fall, the dosage recommended by her doctor, her parents said.

Joyce and Terence Harrison said they are relying on their religious faith to get them through this time.

Said her mother: "I grieve. I bawl. I cry. It's hard for all of us, but I have strength in God."

Vaccine going fast

Also Wednesday, public health officials in Greater Cincinnati said supplies of the flu vaccine are almost gone, and they don't expect shipments until after Jan. 1.

That depends on the Ohio health department receiving doses from the federal government.

In the meantime, however, only several hundred shots remain available locally.

Here's what's left:

• Clermont County has about 400 doses, which will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. today at the Medical Social Services Building, 2400 Clermont Center Dr., Room 103. Additional clinics may be scheduled depending on the supply of vaccine.

• Butler County has about 300 doses left and plans to distribute them between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. today at the county health district office, 301 South Third St., Hamilton.

• Norwood has about 1,000 doses and expects to administer them at a yet-to-be determined time on Friday.

• The Cincinnati Health Department was expected to use up its last 500-600 doses at an unusual evening clinic Wednesday in Corryville at the Health Department headquarters. The clinic was crowded, but not chaotic. Numbers were issued to the hundreds of people who were lining up.

Tiffany Richardson, 27, of College Hill brought her 2-year-old daughter Jeanae Tucker because she is worried about the growing numbers of flu cases.

"We knew there would be a big line but nowhere like this,'' Richardson said at 6 p.m. as she clutched line ticket 533 after an hour's wait.

Cincinnati Health Commissioner Malcolm Adcock said the upcoming holiday school break may help limit the virus' spread among children.

While the number of suspected flu cases in Ohio doubled in a week, Adcock said it is nowhere near an epidemic.

The state health department reported 2,249 suspected flu cases through last week, more than doubling the previous week's count of 1,038. The department defines an influenza epidemic in terms of higher-than-expected numbers, said spokeswoman Michelle LoParo.

Given that Ohio sees 10,000 to 14,000 flu cases each year, the state won't be considered in an epidemic until the number of suspected cases reaches 14,000.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that healthy adults get the nasal FluMist vaccine in hopes of reserving the remaining limited supplies of traditional flu shots for the elderly, children and other higher-risk groups. The more expensive FluMist is only recommended for healthy people ages 5-49.

Reporter Tim Bonfield contributed. E-mail

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