W.Va. DHHR confirms child flu death

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau of Public Health has confirmed that a child has died from the flu in the 2019-20 flu season. (MGN Image)
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau of Public Health has confirmed that a child has died from the flu in the 2019-20 flu season.

According to a press release from DHHR, the last flu associated pediatric death was reported during the 2017-18 season

Influenza-associated deaths of children under the age of 18 are required to be reported to the local health department within one week because they're of serious concern, DHHR officials said.

DHHR officials said they will not release details of the death, including the child’s name, hometown, county, age and gender in order to protect the family's privacy.

Monongalia County Health Department Public Information Officer MaryWade Triplett said that they cannot confirm if the child died in Monongalia County.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the child’s family and friends,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Such a loss is always tragic. While most people recover from the flu in a few days, it clearly is and can be a serious and life-threatening illness in both children and adults.”

The Bureau of Public Health officials urge all West Virginians 6-months-old or older to get vaccinated.

“It’s not too late to get your flu shot, as influenza activity in West Virginia remains widespread," Dr. Stemp added. "The flu vaccine is the first line of defense to protect yourself, and people around you who are vulnerable to the serious effects of the flu."

"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.)," DHHR officials said.

Infants under 6-months-old cannot get the vaccine. DHHR officials say the best way to protect them is to have everyone who has contact with the infant to get vaccinated and to limit the infant's exposure to large groups of people.

Those who believe they might have the flu should contact their doctor immediately to see if they need treatment.

"Early treatment with an antiviral drug can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious," DHHR officials said. "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."

Officials say 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 and washing hands frequently, preferably with soap and water.

A total of 78 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported nationwide during the 2019-20 influenza season, according to DHHR officials.