Health

Flu claims life of 34-year-old Newton woman

Joshua Lagade of Vista, California, gets fluids in an IV as he lies on a bed with the flu in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, January 18, 2018. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)
Joshua Lagade of Vista, California, gets fluids in an IV as he lies on a bed with the flu in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, January 18, 2018. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

A 34-year-old Newton woman with two young children has died due to complications of the flu.

Nikki Burtlow died Friday at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines after being transferred on Thursday from Skiff Medical Center in Newton.

“She was being treated for a chest cold a couple of weeks prior to everything going really bad,” Burtlow’s sister Amanda Reavis said.

On Thursday, Reavis said her dad went to check on Burtlow after she got her children, 9-year-old Bently and 7-year-old Lara, off to school and found she wasn’t responding very well. After calling her husband, they took Burtlow to the emergency room at Skiff and were sent to Mercy immediately.

“We got to talk to her when they first got her into Mercy. She was delirious, though, sometimes she knew what was going on and sometimes she didn’t,” Reavis said.

After only 18 hours at Mercy, Burtlow died.

“Doctors at Mercy thought things had progressed too far by the time she got there,” Reavis said.

Burtlow was the youngest of four daughters born and raised in Newton. Reavis said her sister did not have health insurance and put off going to the doctor for several days.

Since Burtlow’s passing, Reavis has been working to raise awareness about influenza. She said she has already been hearing comments about people considering getting the flu shot.

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Skiff Chief Operating Officer Sonja Ranck said the illness rate at her hospital is very consistent with what is happening across Iowa and the nation. In Iowa, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 25 percent of those tested for influenza have come back positive and Ranck, said Skiff is right in line with that number with a 23 percent positive rate.

“We want people to know it is not too late to get a flu shot,” Ranck said. “Even though we know it is not fully effective, it can help minimize the symptoms if you get the flu.”

She said the hospital is also seeing people stay sick longer this year than in years past. Typically, the flu runs its course in a couple of weeks but Ranck said people are under the weather longer, which can cause additional challenges of continuing daily life with the potentially contagious flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all U.S. states except Hawaii are reporting widespread flu activity similar to what was seen during the peak of the 2014-2015 season, which also had high severity. Since Oct. 1, nearly 6,500 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported at an overall rate of 22.77 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the U.S. Flu activity is predicted to continue circulating for several more weeks.

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