Health Department reports first pediatric flu death of season

Nebraska is experiencing a high activity level in flu-like illness so far this season.
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) - The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has reported the state’s first pediatric death connected to influenza for the 2019-20 flu season.

VDH says a person between the ages of 13 and 17 in northern Virginia has died, but will release no further information about the victim.

“We offer our condolences and deepest sympathies to this child’s family,” said State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A., “Sadly, this is a tragic reminder that flu can be a serious illness, and we encourage everyone to take precautions to protect themselves and others.”

On average, the department says, three flu-related pediatric deaths are reported each year in Virginia.

VDH says flu has been widespread in Virginia since December 2019, and has investigated 61 flu outbreaks through February 1.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates influenza has resulted in between 22 and 31 million illnesses so far this flu season, according to VDH. There have been more than 200,000 hospitalizations and at least 12,000 deaths in the U.S.

VDH says certain groups are at higher risk for serious illness from flu, including children younger than 5, pregnant women, people aged 65 and older, and those with suppressed immune systems or certain chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease.

“Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu,” said Dr. Oliver. “Even at this time of year, if you haven’t had the flu shot, you should make an appointment and get it. There is still time to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season.”

Flu activity in Virginia typically peaks between December and February, according to VDH, but can remain elevated into the spring.

VDH recommends taking these actions to prevent the flu:

- Get vaccinated every year;
- Practice good public health with hand hygiene (washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer), respiratory etiquette (coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow rather than your open hand), and staying home when you feel sick; and
- Take antivirals as prescribed if you do become sick with the flu.

To locate a seasonal flu vaccine clinic near you, click here. or contact your local health department.

For more information on flu in Virginia, click here..

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