MISSOULA – The passing of a 6-year-old Missoula girl has been confirmed as the state’s first influenza-related death of the 2018-2019 flu season.
The Missoula City-County Health Department, along with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, have confirmed 6-year-old Allison Eaglespeaker passed away on Saturday, Dec. 1 due to the flu.
The young girl was admitted to the hospital on Friday night, according to her mother Crystal White Shield.
Crystal said in a Facebook post that her daughter was quickly moved to the ICU due to a combination of the flu, pneumonia and asthma.
Allison was a kindergartner at Russell Elementary School.
Teachers and staff offered support for students on Monday who have questions about Allison and simply about the loss of a life.
Missoula County Public Schools spokesperson Hatton Littman says support is different for young kids compared to some of the older high school students.
MCPS is also encouraging parents to have talks about grief and loss if students have questions.
Nationwide, the CDC reports that there have been five flu-related pediatric deaths so far this season.
In Montana, the last flu-related pediatric death occurred during the 2017-2018 influenza season when one child under the age of 18 died.
Health officials says influenza activity is currently at low levels in Montana. However, this is expected to change in the coming weeks.
This season, there have been 36 cases and six hospitalizations reported in Montana. This includes twelve cases and one influenza-related hospitalization in Missoula County.
Last season, more than 10,000 cases, 979 hospitalizations and 79 deaths were reported across Montana, including seven deaths in Missoula County
In Montana, influenza activity increases in December and peaks in January and February.
A Go Fund Me page has been created to help Allison’s family with funeral costs.
Reporting by Kent Luetzen for MTN News