The flu season has turned deadly in Stanislaus County with the announcement that a young child has died from the virus. This is the first flu-related death in the county this season.
“This is a very sad reminder that flu is unpredictable and can be deadly,” said Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the child's family and hope we can help people understand that flu is a serious illness. Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu, and it's still not too late to get a flu shot.”
The child’s name, age and hometown were not released by the health department.
The child had the H1N1 strain of influenza, which past outbreaks have shown is a deadlier virus among young children than other strains. The H1N1 virus was declared a pandemic in 2009 when it rapidly spread around the globe, sickening millions of people.
On Dec. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported increased influenza activity across the country, including seven pediatric deaths. The CDC monitors and analyzes key flu activity indicators every week. After sustained elevated activity is observed across key indicators for a number of weeks, flu season is said to have started. Flu activity met those criteria for the week ending Dec. 15. In California, flu usually begins to increase in late November or December.
“It’s too soon to make any assessment about this season’s severity, however, since this H1N1 virus emerged in 2009, it has been associated with significant illness and severe illness among young children,” the CDC stated in their weekly flu summary. “At this point, most flu activity has been driven by illness in school-aged children, and hospitalization rates among children younger than 5 years old (7.7 per 100,000) are now the highest among all age groups.”
While how long a flu season lasts varies, CDC expects that elevated flu activity will continue for weeks. The average duration of a flu season for the last five seasons has been 16 weeks, with a range of 11 weeks to 20 weeks. With significant flu still to come this season, CDC continues to recommend that anyone who has not yet gotten a flu vaccine this season should get vaccinated now. It takes approximately two weeks for the protection provided by vaccination to begin.
Vaccinations are recommended for everyone six months of age or older. Flu shots are still available at many places, including doctors' offices, local health department clinics, and community settings as well as most pharmacies.
Flu illnesses can range from mild to severe. Flu-related issues can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. The symptoms of flu can come on suddenly, and may include fever, chills, headache, fatigue and/or body aches, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
People experiencing flu-like symptoms should call their health care provider if their symptoms are serious or if there is trouble breathing, if they are pregnant, or have underlying medical conditions. Doctors may prescribe antiviral drugs for people sickened by the flu. Antiviral drugs can make the illness milder and shorten the time a person is sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.