The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the first influenza-associated pediatric death for the 2019–2020 flu season. Health officials say a child in Western North Carolina died in December from complications associated with influenza infection. To protect the family’s privacy, no further information regarding this child will be released.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to this child’s family," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore. “These personal losses are also a reminder for all of us that flu can be a serious illness. We want to encourage people to protect themselves and others by getting their annual flu shot.”
The latest NC flu surveillance report (week ending 1/4/2020) also shows a spike in cases, with 20 adult flu-associated deaths compared to 10 in the week ending 12/28/2019. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 27 pediatric flu deaths had been reported from other states as of Jan. 4, 2020.
The CDC estimates that between 12,000 and 79,000 people die from flu infections nationwide each year. Certain groups are at higher risk for serious illness from flu, including children younger than five, pregnant women, people over 65 and those with certain chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease. However, over half of the children who die from flu have no known medical condition that would put them at higher risk.
“Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu,” Dr. Moore said. “There is still time to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season.”
Early treatment with an antiviral drug can also help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious.
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
The Division of Public Health posts weekly updates on flu surveillance data every Thursday at flu.nc.gov.