Child, 6, Dies Hours After Leaving ER With Flu-Like Symptoms

Child was not given flu test in emergency room, father says

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The father of a 6-year-old girl with flu-like symptoms who died hours after leaving the emergency room is questioning her treatment. He says doctors did not test her for the flu and told her family to treat the illness with Tylenol and Zyrtec. (Published Tuesday, Jan 8, 2013)

    A 6-year-old child with flu-like symptoms died hours after she visited an emergency room, where doctors declined to administer a flu test, her father says.

    Tahila Johnson's grandmother found her unresponsive shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday and called 911.

    Flu Shots Urged; 6-Year-Old Treated for Flu Dies

    [DFW] Flu Shots Urged; 6-Year-Old Treated for Flu Dies
    The health department and doctors are urging everyone to get a flu shot even before a 6-year-old girl who was being treated for the flu died. (Published Tuesday, Jan 8, 2013)

    The family said the girl seemed to be doing fine when it last checked on her at about 2 a.m.

    Johnson's family took her to the emergency room at Dallas Regional Medical Center in Mesquite on Monday after she missed school because of aches and pains. They waited for four hours before doctors told them she didn't need a flu test.

    "'We're not going to test her for the flu; we're not testing anybody today,' and there was a lot of kids in the lobby, so is my child the only one? You never know," said her father, Earl Johnson.

    After seeing doctors, the family was sent home with instructions to treat the illness with Tylenol and Zyrtec.

    "My daughter didn't get tested, and I woke up in the morning and it wasn't even 12 hours from leaving the hospital, and she's dead," Earl Johnson said. "I wish I could have made them do more."

    The hospital released a short written statement Tuesday.

    "The staff at Dallas Regional Medical Center would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Tahila Johnson," hospital spokesman Adam Groshans said. "This is a tragic loss for which we are deeply saddened."

    The statement did not address questions about the care the child received, but a hospital spokesman said administrators are reviewing what happened.

    Her father said his daughter had not had a flu shot.

    "She rarely got sick, ever. She didn't have allergies; she wasn't allergic to anything," he said. "She never missed school -- that's how we knew she was sick; she didn't want to go to school."

    "She was daddy's girl," he said. "I don't know what to do. It's like my heart is gone now."

    The Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office will determine Tahila Johnson's cause of death. It is expected to perform an autopsy Wednesday, but officials said it could take several weeks to determine if her death was flu-related.

    UPDATE: On January 10, influenza was reported as the cause of death for Tahila Johnson, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson.

    Flu vaccine supplies run low

    Dallas County has run low on flu vaccines with the early onset of flu season, but the county health director says that enough are on hand now and more supplies are on the way.

    "There's not a vaccine shortage nationally," said Zach Thompson, county health director. "There's just a low inventory because you try to get as many people vaccinated before the holiday period."

    The county health department has ordered 1,000 more vaccines and has 200 on hand.

    Health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated. The vaccination takes 10 days to be effective.

    "We know vaccines work. We know they're effective, and so if we can get the message out to the community that the more people we get immunized, the less disease we have spreading," said Vicki Yeatts, Garland Health Department public health administrator.

    Dallas Regional Medical Center said it is encouraging people to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's flu-prevention guidelines:

    • Get a flu vaccine
    • Take steps to prevent the spread of germs, such as frequent hand-washing
    • Take the antivirual drugs prescribed by a physician if you get the flu

    If complications such as difficulty breathing, persistent fever, excessive vomiting or difficulty swallowing become apparent, people should immediately go to closest emergency room, the hospital said.

    NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff, Tammy Mutasa and Scott Gordon contributed to this report.