Flu’s worsening shadow is blanketing South Florida

Michael celebrated his 3rd birthday at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, the pediatric unit of Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Fla.

His mom said he first got a rash and complained of joint pain. Then he had a fever. Eventually tests showed the toddler was infected with an aggressive form of the flu.

“Michael had a lot of what we call ‘end organ disease.’ It affected his neurological status, it affected his heart,” Dr. Allan Greissman said. “It affected his kidneys, it affected his lungs and it affected his liver.” 

Greissman said Michael is recovering, but Dylan Winnick was not so lucky. The 12-year-old from West Palm Beach is among the 53 other children who have died of the flu around the nation. The Centers for Disease Control had bad news again Friday. The flu season has intensified and there are more weeks of suffering ahead.

One of every 14 visits to doctors and clinics were for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That’s the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009. Last week, 42 states reported high patient traffic for the flu, up from 39.

Hospital stays because of the flu also increased.

“It’s been the busiest I can remember for a long time,” said Dr. Doug Olson, an ER doctor at Northside Hospital Forsyth, in Cumming, Georgia. Another hospital in the Atlanta area this week set up a mobile ER outside to handle flu cases.

The heavy flu season has also put a strain in places on some medical supplies, including IV bags, and flu medicine.

The CDC tally shows hospitalization rates surged to surpass the nasty season of the winter of 2014-2015, when the vaccine was a poor match to the main bug.

So far, however, deaths this season from the flu and flu-related pneumonia have lagged a little behind some recent bad seasons. There are as many as 56,000 deaths connected to the flu during a bad year.

The flu usually peaks in February. This season had an early start, and health officials initially thought it would also have an early peak. But so far it hasn’t worked out that way.

And there are some signs the flu season will continue to get worse. The CDC’s forecast though wasn’t quite as precise as Punxsutawney Phil’s; the groundhog “predicted” six more weeks of winter on Friday.

As for the flu: “There may be many weeks left for this season,” said the CDC’s Dr. Dan Jernigan.

Some good news: Illnesses seem to be easing a bit on the West Coast. Oregon joined Hawaii last week as the only states where flu wasn’t widespread. Friday’s report covers the week ending Jan. 27.

In the U.S., annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older. This season’s vaccine targets the strains that are making Americans sick, including the key H3N2 virus. How well it worked won’t be known until later this month. An early report from Canada for the same flu shot shows protection against that bug has been poor, just 17 percent.

Canada’s flu season so far has been milder with more of a mix of strains. But CDC officials said effectiveness figures in the U.S. may end up in the same range.

Some researchers say part of the problem may be that most flu vaccine is made by growing viruses in chicken eggs; the viruses can mutate in the eggs, making the vaccine less effective in people.

The cold winter in many parts of the country may also have played a role, keeping people indoors and helping flu bugs to spread, said Dr. David Weber, a University of North Carolina flu expert.

Whatever the reason, “it’s a whopper of a flu season,” said Mimi Dreifuss, a North Carolina nurse who got sick this week.

Dreifuss, 61, worked in a pediatrician’s office for years and didn’t catch the flu. She retired last year and didn’t get a flu shot figuring she was no longer around sick children. This week she had a 101 temperature and was diagnosed with the flu.

“I’m feeling kind of foolish,” said Dreifuss, of Bynum, North Carolina.

In Pensacola, Florida, an ER nurse’s Facebook rant after a 12-hour shift got attention this week, with her venting about people not doing enough to stop the spread of germs. She demonstrates the “magic trick” of sneezing or coughing into the crook of an arm.

She also complains about people without true emergencies crowding into waiting rooms, next to people with the flu.

“So guess what? Five flus came in, 15 flus walk out. It’s great,” says Katherine Lockler. “They’ll be back.”

Joanne Oxces said she was happy to learn Michael will be released from the hospital soon, but after the frightening experience she said she had some advise for South Florida residents. 

“You need your flu shot you need to wash your hands, cover your mouth, stay home when you’re sick you don’t want to be here in the hospital for three weeks,” Oxces said. 


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All clear given after 2 Hollywood schools evacuated due to bomb threat

The all clear has been given after a bomb threat Wednesday afternoon forced the evacuation of two schools in Hollywood.Sky 10 was above the scene as students from Driftwood Elementary and Driftwood Middle schools were congregated on the athletic f…

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Hearing to determine whether nursing home will lose license after deaths

The first day of a state hearing was held Monday concerning a post-Hurricane Irma nursing home tragedy in which 12 people died after the air conditioning went out. 

The hearing is expected to continue at least throughout the week and the judge will ultimately decide whether or not the nursing home will be shut down.

The hearing comes after the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills was evacuated in the days following Hurricane Irma.

A total of 12 residents there eventually died from complications due to extreme heat in the building after the facility lost power during the storm.

Three patients were found dead in their beds and others were hospitalized before the entire facility was evacuated.

On Monday, attorneys representing the American Health Care Association and the nursing home gave their opening statements.

The state revealed patients’ body temperatures were up to 107.5 degrees. Fire rescue personnel couldn’t get a reading on one patient, and said the thermometer only read, “Hi” meaning her temp was above 108 degrees.

The state will try to prove negligence and convince the judge that the facility should lose its license.

Attorneys representing the center told the judge that staff went above and beyond, doing all they could to prepare for the loss of power and air conditioning during the storm.

They said the center got fans and spot coolers, and that employees made dozens of calls for help when the air conditioning went out.

“There were a total of 14 calls and contacts with FPL,” one attorney said. “They contacted the governor’s cellphone when FPL didn’t come. They contacted the governor’s cellphone not once or twice, but they contacted the governor’s cellphone five times.”

The chief nursing officer from Memorial Regional Hospital was the first witness to testify Monday.

The state said she and another nurse walked over to see what was going on after the first few patients were brought to the hospital. 

Judy Frum told the judge that when they got off the elevator on the second floor, it felt like opening your car on a hot summer day and getting a blast of heat.

“We went into the building and I just remember an extraordinary amount of heat hitting my face when we walked in past the threshold,” Frum said. 

The prosecutor said 11 of the 12 patients who died were on the second floor of the building. 

Frum said the patients were deteriorating quickly before the mass evacuation of the facility was ordered.

“I was extremely worried,” she said. “It just didn’t make sene to me that three patients were coming in with very high temperatures from a nursing home and one had expired. It was a red flag for me.”

Throughout the week, the judge will hear witness testimony from people like them who were at the scene and handling the residents, including firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses and the medical examiner.

The medical examiner has ruled all 12 deaths as homicides.

The Hollywood Police Department is still conducting a criminal investigation.

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Suspect arrested in Hollywood burglaries, sexual assaults

A man opened a bedroom window to a Hollywood home early one morning in December and made his way inside, sexually assaulting a teenage girl before rummaging through her mother’s belongings and threatening to kill the teen if she told police.

That same man struck another Hollywood home less than a month later, this time sexually assaulting a woman who lived there before getting away with less than $10 in cash, police said.

Andre McGriff was arrested Friday on multiple charges, including sexual battery, burglary and false imprisonment.

Hollywood police spokeswoman Miranda Grossman said DNA evidence collected at both scenes led detectives to McGriff.

“The safety of our residents is our top priority,” acting Hollywood Police Chief Chris O’Brien said. “I am proud of all the work done by our department, from the officers who conducted surveillance operations to our detectives and crime scene technicians who worked diligently to identify the suspect.”

According to one of two Hollywood police probable cause affidavits, a 13-year-old girl was home alone putting towels in her mother’s room on the morning of Dec. 4 when she saw McGriff climb inside through her mother’s bedroom window. The girl tried to run away, but McGriff grabbed her and covered her mouth, telling her to shut up.

McGriff then led the girl back into her mother’s room, told her to face the bed and asked her, “Where is the money?” according to the report.

The girl told police that McGriff asked her a series of questions before leading her to the loveseat in the living room, where he forced her to touch herself while he took pictures of her. 

“The suspect then told her he would post the pictures on Facebook if she told anyone,” the report said.

McGriff, who was wearing a bandanna covering his face and gloves on his hands, left through the front door, the report said.

“He told her numerous times throughout the incident if she called the police, he would come back and kill her because he lives very close,” the report said.

Less than a month later, on Jan. 11, a woman was asleep in her bed when she woke up to find McGriff standing over her, demanding gold from her, a second probable cause affidavit said.

McGriff told her not to look at him, hit her on her head and then moved her onto a couch in the living room, where he removed her clothes and fondled her, the report said.

“As her dog barked, the suspect told her to shut the dog up,” the report said.

Like in the other burglary, McGriff forced the woman to touch herself while he searched the home for valuables, the report said.

Before he left, McGriff put a blanket over the woman’s face and gave her a warning, just like he had the teen girl, police said.

“The suspect told the victim that if she called the police, he would follow her and would ‘come f— her up,'” the report said.

The woman waited several minutes to make sure her attacker was gone before she left with her dog and called police.

McGriff got away with the woman’s purse and wallet, taking less than $10 in cash before tossing the other stolen items into her pool, the report said.

Police said DNA swabs taken from the bedroom in the girl’s home and the door from the woman’s home linked McGriff to the crimes.

“It’s not true,” McGriff’s aunt, Cynthia McGriff, told Local 10 News. “They’re just trying to frame him for something he didn’t do.” 

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Service dog dies after being attacked by another dog in Hollywood

A Hollywood family is mourning the loss of its longtime service dog after pet was mauled by another dog last week.

The Kunde family said an American bulldog got loose from a neighbor’s home and attacked Fletcher, a 14-year-old terrier mix, around noon Thursday in the family’s yard  in the 1500 block of Fletcher Street. 

Randa Kunde said Fletcher’s injuries were so severe, he had to be euthanized.

“Because there were over 20 bites and puncture wounds to his neck, he couldn’t survive,” Randa Kunde said. “He was a little dog. He was 22 pounds.”

Fletcher was more than a pet to the Kunde family. Terry Kunde, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, relied on Fletcher for emotional support.

“You know that dog was my partner,” Terry Kunde said. “You know I have been to Vietnam and had a lot of trauma in my life and that dog gave me comfort.”

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‘Bikes Up, Guns Down’ rideouts cause dangerous conditions on South Florida roads

South Florida authorities arrested dozens of ATV and dirt bike riders Monday during the illegal “Bikes Up, Guns Down” ride.

Riders began hitting the streets about 2 p.m. 

Florida Highway Patrol officers could be seen at the entrances to numerous highways, trying to stop the riders before they made it on the highways.

Riders were spotted by Sky 10 popping wheelies, driving against traffic and disobeying traffic lights. The riders were involved in at least one serious crash.

A 14-year-old girl was seriously hurt after she ATV she was riding crashed into a car at Northwest 58th Street and Northwest 12th Avenue Monday afternoon in Miami, police said. The girl is being treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she is listed in stable condition. 

Officer Kenia Fallat, a spokeswoman for the Miami Police Department, said the passenger on the ATV fled the scene.

Despite riders on social media claiming that “Bikes Up, Guns Down” was a “peaceful” event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., several riders were seen kicking a police vehicle and then flicking off the officer as he drove behind them. 

“Wheels Up Guns Down lost whatever positive message they had years ago,” Miami-Dade police Director Juan Perez said.  “Once you cross the line and blatantly endanger other drivers, pedestrians and yourselves, people stop listening to the message and only watch the chaos being created. It’s become an excuse for disobedience and lawlessness.”

Miami-Dade police said they have made eight felony arrests and six misdemeanor arrests as of 10:30 p.m. Monday. Police impounded 72 ATV’s/dirt bikes/motorcycles in that same period of time.

Miami-Dade police also said they seized four firearms and impounded three other vehicles.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said deputies there arrested 14 people and towed 20 vehicles Monday.

Hollywood police said by 4:30 p.m., five people had been arrested and 20 vehicles were seized.

A short time later, Hollywood police said a stolen trailer had been seized from an Airbnb in the 1400 block of Lee Street, as well as nine ATVs and a Rolls Royce. 

A stolen trailer, 9 ATVs, and a Rolls Royce were seized from an airbnb in the 1400 block of Lee Street. Most of these vehicles were unregistered. pic.twitter.com/RWZwGzcfFU

— HollywoodFL Police (@HollywoodFLPD) January 15, 2018

Meanwhile, Local 10 News reporter Carlos Suarez was on Sheridan Street, just west of U.S. Route 1, as three people were taken into custody.

The two men and a woman were handcuffed and were seen sitting on the sidewalk before Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies took them to jail.

“Those are registered — insurance. I got everything. I got paperwork,” one man said. 

“So, how do you feel about ending up here?” Suarez asked.

” I don’t really care,” the man said.  

Deputies said the woman who was taken into custody is a probation officer from New York.

“Most of these individuals are from out of town, if not from out of state,” BSO Detective Donnard Huneke said. “One of the apprehended was from Jacksonville, another one from Kissimmee, and those two are from the New York City area — the Bronx, in particular. The female arrestee has identified herself as a probation officer for New York City.”

Huneke said deputies were not chasing vehicles in an effort to keep the public safe.

“The deputies did not pursue the vehicles, however, they followed at safe distance, getting license plates,” he said. “Several of the individuals were running in the wrong way of traffic, tailgating, coming close to vehicles and doing wheelies.”

The two people from New York told deputies that although they were riding dirt bikes on the road, they were not a part of the Bikes Up, Guns Down ride-out.  

By 4 p.m., deputies had arrested five people and towed seven vehicles. 

Authorities said the suspects face various charges, including reckless driving and speeding. 

#RIGHT #NOW Three people on motorbikes arrested on Sheridan street just west of US-1. We are riding w/ @BrowardSheriff in an unmarked car. pic.twitter.com/FZ3frI6zQ7

— Carlos Suarez (@CarlosWPLG) January 15, 2018

Deputies tell us the woman is a probation officer from NY. BSO began following the group at University/Pines. pic.twitter.com/9SIFrWYoW3

— Carlos Suarez (@CarlosWPLG) January 15, 2018

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