The child was under the age of 10.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) Tuesday confirmed the first influenza-associated pediatric death this year in the state. The child was under the age of 10 and lived in Essex County.
The child’s flu was confirmed by clinical test and symptoms. Last flu season, there were two confirmed pediatric flu-related deaths in Massachusetts. As of Feb. 3, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported a total of 63 influenza-associated pediatric deaths this flu season nationwide.
DPH continues to urge people who have not received a flu shot to get vaccinated. People who think they may have the flu should call their healthcare provider for advice and possible treatment.
“This is a tragic reminder of how serious the flu can be for some people,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Every flu season is different, but every flu season is bad. This one arrived early and continues to spread, leading many people throughout the Commonwealth to get sick.’’
DPH estimates between 250 and 1,100 Massachusetts residents die annually from complications of influenza. Although the majority of cases of influenza-like illness are not reported, so far there have been more than 8,100 laboratory-confirmed cases in the state this flu season.
The most common symptoms of flu are fever, cough, and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose, and feeling very tired. Some people, especially young children, may also have diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms last from a few days to up to a week or more.
To stop flu from spreading, DPH recommends that people:
· Talk to their healthcare provider (call first) if they think they have the flu, especially if they have health concerns that make them more likely to develop severe illness when sick with the flu. The doctor may prescribe antiviral medications, which work best when started early in the illness. If symptoms do not improve or worsen rapidly, they should seek medical attention immediately.
· Get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. Vaccine is still available, and there is likely to be flu activity for weeks to come.
· Stay home when they are sick with fever and cough or a sore throat, if possible. People should stay at home until they have gone 24 hours without fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications.
· Wash their hands thoroughly and regularly, or use hand sanitizer.
· Cover their coughs and sneezes.
The flu virus is spread through droplets of saliva and mucus from the nose and mouth. If you are close enough to a person with the flu (3-6 feet) when they cough or sneeze, you can breathe in the virus and get sick. The flu virus can also live for a short time on things you touch, such as doorknobs, phones, and toys. Adults with flu can spread the virus one day before symptoms appear to approximately one week after. Children can spread the flu even longer after they get sick.
For more information about influenza, visit www.mass.gov/flu. Detailed weekly flu surveillance reports and other related flu articles are posted on the Mass Public Health Blog. DPH’s latest video blog on this year’s flu season is posted here. For questions, call your local board of health, your healthcare provider, or DPH at 617-983-6800.
This is a developing story. Check back for more information as it becomes available.