RALEIGH, NC (NEWS RELEASE) — North Carolina has reported its first child death from flu for the 2010-2011 flu season. A 15-year old died on January 5 of complications from an influenza infection. (To protect the family’s privacy, the youth’s hometown, county and sex are not being released.) The child had not received flu vaccine this season.
“The death of this healthy young person is a tragic reminder of the potentially devastating effects flu can have on people at any age,” said State Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel. “Most flu infections can be prevented by getting the vaccine. Flu vaccine is readily available and affordable this year, and is the single most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones.”
Flu vaccine is recommended for anyone over 6 months old. It is particularly important for people at high risk of complications, including pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, very young children and the elderly. However, one out of four flu deaths last year were in healthy people with no underlying medical problems. This year’s vaccine protects against three strains of influenza, including H1N1.
“The vaccine is an excellent match for all three strains of flu we are seeing nationally and in our state,” Engel said. “A good vaccine match can reduce the chances of getting influenza by up to 90 percent.”
Statewide surveillance shows that flu is now widespread in North Carolina. The southeastern United States has had most of the flu activity nationwide so far this season.
Influenza kills approximately 36,000 people and causes 220,000 hospitalizations every year. Usually, most of the deaths are in the elderly, but with the 2009 H1N1 virus (which is still circulating), more than 90 percent of deaths were in children and young adults.
“Flu season lasts into the spring, so if you haven’t been vaccinated, it is not too late,” Engel said. “If you do get sick, remember to stay home from work or school while you are sick, cover coughs and sneezes, and—most important—wash your hands.”
For more information about flu and to find a flu vaccine clinic near you, visit flu.nc.gov