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Third Mississippi child dies from flu

Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

The Mississippi State Department of Health has confirmed that a third child has died from a severe case of the flu during this year’s flu season.

A media release from the MSDH stated that the death occurred in Central Mississippi. A “pediatric death” as defined by the Department is a death of an individual under 18 years of age. The exact age of the child was not given.

This is the third case in what’s been a particularly harsh flu season and, there have been a total of 19 pediatric flu deaths reported in Mississippi since pediatric flu deaths became reportable in the 2008-2009 flu season. Nationwide, as of March 10, 2018, there have been 128 pediatric flu deaths reported this season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Byers said while influenza activity has greatly decreased over the past few weeks, the department continues to receive reports of new flu cases. Peak flu season in Mississippi typically lasts from January through March.

“This has been an extremely active flu season, and we know that, unfortunately, flu can lead to serious complications and sometimes death, even for healthy children and young adults,” he said.

Dr. Byers said each season a flu shot is still the best protection against flu-related complications, and while it may not prevent infection, it can drastically reduce the severity and length of illness and prevent serious complications such as hospitalization and even death.

“It’s been shown that if you get the flu shot; your risk of developing those complications or having hospitalizations as the result of an infection is much less. So, it is important, not only if you’re in a high-risk category, but if you’re taking care of someone who is, that you pay close attention to that, and make sure that you’re vaccinated to protect yourself and the people around you.”

Flu shots are recommended for all those six months and older. The type of flu virus that is primarily causing illness in Mississippi and nationwide is the H3N2 flu strain, which especially affects individuals over 65 years of age and young children, increasing their risk of complications and hospitalization.

The MSDH recommends the following tips for flu prevention as the virus continues to spread:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid close contact with others who are ill

In Mississippi, only pediatric flu deaths are reported to MSDH. While individual flu cases are not reportable, the agency monitors flu activity through the Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Sentinel Surveillance System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database.  Healthcare providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. MSDH uses this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.

Symptoms of seasonal flu include fever, cough and sore throat. Fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and a runny or stuffy nose are also often present. More severe symptoms and death can also occur.

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