The Mississippi State Department of Health has confirmed the first pediatric influenza death for the 2017-2018 flu season.
The death occurred in an individual from South Mississippi. Pediatric deaths are defined as deaths of individuals under 18 years of age.
Including this reported death, there have been a total of 17 pediatric flu deaths reported in Mississippi since pediatric flu deaths became reportable in the 2008-2009 flu season. Nationwide, there have been 30 pediatric flu deaths reported this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The MSDH conducts a thorough investigation for any reported influenza-associated pediatric death to verify and confirm the case before any information is released to the public” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “In this way MSDH is able to provide Mississippians with the most accurate and verified information.”
Dr. Byers said influenza activity remains elevated in Mississippi, with reports of widespread flu throughout the state.
“This has been an extremely active flu season, and we know that, unfortunately, flu can lead to serious complications and sometimes death, even for healthy children and young adults,” he said.
Dr. Byers said the flu shot is still the best protection against flu-related complications, and while it may not prevent infection, it can drastically reduce the severity and length of illness and prevent serious complications such as hospitalization and even death.
Flu shots are recommended for all those six months and older. The type of flu virus that is primarily causing illness in Mississippi and nationwide is the H3N2 flu strain, which especially affects individuals over 65 years of age and young children, increasing their risk of complications and hospitalization.
Other prevention methods include staying home when you are sick or keeping kids home from school when they are sick, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and practicing healthy handwashing practices.
In Mississippi, only pediatric flu deaths are reported to MSDH. While individual flu cases are not reportable, the agency monitors flu activity through the Influenza-Like Illness Sentinel Surveillance System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database.
Healthcare providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. MSDH uses this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.
Symptoms of seasonal flu include fever, cough and sore throat. Fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and a runny or stuffy nose are also often present. More severe symptoms and death can also occur.