The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the first child death from the flu for the 2016-2017 flu season.
According to health officials, a child in the western part of the state died Jan. 24 from complications associated with influenza infection. To protect the family’s privacy, the child’s hometown, county and gender are not being released.
“If there is any positive to come from this tragedy, we hope it will be that people understand even though flu is a very common virus, it can cause serious and even deadly infections in some people," said Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore in a written statement, released on Thursday. "We extend our deepest sympathies to this child’s family.”
This flu season, 19 adult flu-associated deaths have been reported in North Carolina, with 14 of those people older than 65. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight pediatric flu deaths had been reported from other states as of Jan. 21.
The CDC estimates that 3,000 to 49,000 people die from flu infections nationwide each year. Certain groups are at higher risk for serious illness from flu, including those with underlying heart or lung disease, people older than 65 and children younger than 5. Up to half of children who die from flu have no known medical condition that would have put them at higher risk.
If you think you might have the flu, contact your doctor right away to see if you need treatment with an antiviral drug. Early treatment with an antiviral drug can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious.
“Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu,” Moore said. “There is still time to protect yourself and your loved ones. Even though it’s February, we expect flu to be circulating for the next several weeks.”
Other precautions you can take to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses include:
- Staying home when you are sick until you have been fever free for at least 24 hours
- Washing your hands frequently, preferably with soap and water
- Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discarding the tissue promptly
For more information on flu and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit www.flu.nc.gov.