Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) confirmed the death of an infant due to influenza. The infant was too young to be immunized.
“This incredibly sad case reminds us that even though the flu is common, it can cause serious illness and even death,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “This is a tragic reminder that anyone who is able to get the flu shot should, not only to protect themselves, but to protect those around them who are most at risk of severe disease and death from the flu.”
This is the first pediatric flu death in Maricopa County this year. There were no deaths in Maricopa County children last season, but three deaths occurred the season before. While influenza deaths among adults are not reported to public health, in the 2017-18 season, CDC reported 61,000 deaths in the US from influenza. This is the most recent estimate available.
So far this flu season, 935 cases have been reported to public health, about four times what they were at the same time last season. Although flu is ramping up about 6 weeks earlier this year than last year, it’s too early to tell how bad this season will be. The predominant strain is influenza type B, which is included in the flu vaccine.
“If you haven’t received your flu shot yet, please get vaccinated as soon as you can,” said Dr. Sunenshine. “You can help prevent the spread of flu in our community, especially to seniors who don’t respond as well to the vaccine and those who can’t get vaccinated.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine. The vaccine provides protection from hospitalization and death even if you get the flu. It’s important to get the vaccine as soon as possible because it takes your immune system 2 weeks to build defense against the flu. In addition to vaccine, protect yourself and others from getting the flu by being vigilant in good hygiene: avoid touching your mouth and nose, wash your hands frequently, cover your cough in your sleeve and stay home when you are sick.
Residents who think they may have the flu and are at high risk for complications are urged to contact their healthcare provider because antiviral medications may help, especially if taken within 48 hours of illness onset.
For more information about the flu and its symptoms or where to find a flu vaccine in Maricopa County, please visit Maricopa.gov/flu.
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