First reported N.C. child flu fatality for 2011-12 season

Published 3:50 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2012

North Carolina has reported its first child death from flu for the 2011-2012 flu season. A 6-year old died on Feb. 4 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 was at risk for complications from the flu because of underlying medical conditions.
Each year, influenza kills an estimated 25,000 people in the United States and causes more than 220,000 hospitalizations. Most influenza infections can be prevented by the simple act of getting the flu vaccine, State Health Director Dr. Laura Gerald said. She reminds area residents that flu vaccine is readily available and affordable and is the single most effective way to protect yourself and your family.
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, almost half of the children who died from flu last season had no known high- risk conditions, so public health officials encourage flu vaccine even for those in good health. This year’s vaccine protects against three strains of influenza, including H1N1.
Local health department officials said flu vaccines are still available. If you or your child has Medicaid, Medicare Part B or Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance you should bring your card when you come to the health department. With or without insurance, there is no charge to individuals for the flu vaccine at the health department.
The Polk County Health Department is located on Walker Street in Columbus and is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
“It is not too late to get your flu shot because flu season can last well into the spring,” Gerald 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.”
– article submitted by Helen White