RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the first pediatric death from flu for the 2022-2023 flu season. A child in the eastern part of the state recently died from complications associated with influenza infection. To protect the family’s privacy, the child’s hometown, county, age and sex are not being released. This is the first pediatric flu death since February 2020.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to this child’s family on this heartbreaking and tragic loss,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore.
North Carolina has seen a rapid early rise in flu cases in recent weeks after two years of relatively low flu activity since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Five adult flu-associated deaths have already been reported in North Carolina during the current flu season, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one pediatric flu death had been reported from other states as of Nov. 2, 2022.
The CDC recommends flu vaccination every year for everyone 6 months and older. In addition to being the best way to prevent infection with the flu, vaccination can also make illness milder for those who do get the flu.
Certain groups are at higher risk for serious illness from flu, including children younger than five, pregnant women, people over 65 and those with certain chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease. However, over half of the children who die from flu have no known medical condition that would put them at higher risk; but studies have shown that vaccines reduce the risk of flu-associated deaths by half in children with high-risk medical conditions and by two-thirds in healthy children.
“Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu,” Dr. Moore said. “There is still time to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season. If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine yet, now is the time.”
North Carolina has also seen increased levels of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this year compared to the same time in recent previous years, according to data reported to the department. These trends are similar to what is being seen nationally. NCDHHS tracks influenza, RSV and other respiratory viruses that may be circulating and publishes weekly to the Respiratory Virus Surveillance Dashboard. (Please note: Due to the surveillance reporting periods and weekly cadence of updating the dashboard, this pediatric flu death will be part of next Wednesday’s update.)
NCDHHS also launched a campaign to inform people of the health risks associated with the seasonal flu, the benefit of annual vaccination and to encourage annual flu vaccination across the state. MySpot.nc.gov/flu has the latest resources, guidance, answers to frequently asked questions, sharable materials and a new PSA. Flu vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments. To find a flu vaccine near you, visit www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines.
Early treatment with an antiviral drug can also help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Antiviral treatment works best if started soon after symptoms begin.
Other precautions you can take to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses include:
- Staying home when you are sick until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours
- Washing your hands frequently, preferably with soap and water
- Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discarding the tissue promptly
For more information on flu and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit www.flu.nc.gov.