CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health has confirmed an influenza-associated pediatric death for the 2021-22 flu season. The last influenza-associated pediatric death was reported during the 2019-20 flu season.
While adult flu deaths are not required to be reported, influenza-associated deaths of children under the age of 18 are required to be reported to the local health department within one week which in turn is reportable to the state. To protect the family’s privacy, no details of the death will be released including the child’s name, hometown, county, age and gender
“This tragedy is a solemn reminder of the importance of flu vaccination, the most effective protection against the illness,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “While young people with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems are at increased risk for serious complications, about 40% of children who die from influenza every year have no preexisting conditions.”
The Bureau for Public Health urges all West Virginians 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated against the flu. “It’s not too late to get your flu shot as influenza is still circulating across the state,” added Dr. Amjad.
Those who are very susceptible to flu and its complications include children under the age of five years old, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma, etc.). Infants under six months of age cannot receive the influenza vaccine. The best way to protect them is to have everyone who will have contact with the infant receive a flu vaccine, and to also limit an infant’s exposure to large groups of individuals.
People who think they might have the flu should contact their doctor immediately to see if they need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug which can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Treatment with an antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health.
Other precautions people can take to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses include:
• Staying home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours
• Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discarding the tissue promptly
• Washing hands frequently, preferably with soap and water
A total of 16 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported nationwide during the 2021-22 influenza season according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.