The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health has confirmed an influenza-associated pediatric death for the 2019-20 flu season. The last influenza-associated pediatric death was reported during the 2017-18 flu season.
While adult flu deaths are not required to be reported, influenza-associated deaths of children under the age of 18 are of serious concern and are required to be reported to the local health department within one week. To protect the family’s privacy, no details of the death will be released including the child’s name, hometown, county, age and gender.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the child’s family and friends,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Such a loss is always tragic. While most people recover from the flu in a few days, it clearly is and can be a serious and life-threatening illness in both children and adults.”
Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against the flu. The Bureau for Public Health urges all West Virginians 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated against the flu.
“It’s not too late to get your flu shot, as influenza activity in West Virginia remains widespread. The flu vaccine is the first line of defense to protect yourself, and people around you who are vulnerable to the serious effects of the flu,” added Dr. Slemp.
Those who are very susceptible to flu and its complications include children under the age of five years old, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma, etc.). Infants under 6 months of age cannot receive the influenza vaccine. The best way to protect them is to have everyone who will have contact with the infant receive a flu vaccine, and to also limit an infant’s exposure to large groups of individuals.
People who think they might have the flu should contact their doctor immediately to see if they need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug. Early treatment with an antiviral drug can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Treatment with an antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health.
Other precautions people can take to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses include:
• Staying home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours
• Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discarding the tissue promptly
• Washing hands frequently, preferably with soap and water
A total of 78 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported nationwide during the 2019-20 influenza season.