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Child dies of flu complications in Virginia, health department says

Child dies of flu complications in Virginia, health department says

RICHMOND, Va. — A child has died from complications associated with the flu in Virginia, according to officials with the health department.

Virginia Department of Health (VDH) officials said Thursday that the child’s death is the first reported pediatric flu death of the 2023-2024 flu season.

“We at the Virginia Department of Health, are broken hearted and extend our sympathies to the family of this child during this difficult time,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton said.

The child, who was only described as between 5 to 12 years old to protect their privacy, lived in the state’s Eastern region.

That region includes the Eastern Sore as well as Chesapeake, Essex, Franklin City, Gloucester, Hampton, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northumberland, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Richmond County, Southampton, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Westmoreland, Williamsburg and York.

“Even though the flu is common, it can cause serious illness and even death,” Shelton said. “I urge everyone who is eligible to receive the flu vaccine to do so not only to protect themselves, but to protect those around them.”

VDH officials noted flu activity is “elevated and is expected to increase in Virginia as the weather becomes colder.”

In fact, ER and urgent care visits due to flu-like illness are very high (6.9% of total visits), especially among young children and school-aged children (14.7% and 13.2% of visits) for the week ending Dec. 23, according to VDH officials.

“The 2023-24 flu season in Virginia is anticipated to be in the typical range of severity,” officials wrote. “However, even typical seasons vary widely and result in illness, hospitalizations, and death. Virginia reported five influenza-associated deaths among children during the 2022-23 flu season.”

Health department officials urged these three steps to prevent the flu.

  1. Everyone six months & older should receive a yearly flu vaccine, consulting your healthcare provider as needed.
  2. Practice good preventive health with hand hygiene (washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer), respiratory etiquette (coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow rather than your open hand), and staying home when you feel sick; and
  3. If you do become sick with the flu, seek healthcare early in your illness if necessary. Antivirals prescribed by a healthcare provider are a treatment option for some patients and can help prevent serious flu complications.

Visit Vaccinate.Virginia.gov or contact your local health department to find a flu vaccine.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email [email protected] to send a tip.

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