By Michaela Gibson Morris
A North Mississippi child has died from flu, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported on Monday.
The child, who was not identified by public health officials, is the first pediatric influenza fatality confirmed in the state during the 2013-14 flu season. The child had chronic underlying health conditions.
Across the country, there have been four other deaths in children 18 and younger reported by the Centers for Disease Control through Dec. 21, the most recent data available.
“This is another serious reminder that it is important for people of all ages to get the flu vaccination,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
So far this year, the H1N1 swine flu virus has been the main strain of influenza circulating in Mississippi and the United States. The state health department is continuing to receive reports of serious illness and deaths from flu in young and middle-age adults.
During the 2009 pandemic, 80 percent of the deaths from the flu were in people younger than 65. Typically, the majority of flu deaths occur in those over 65.
“Fortunately, this year’s flu vaccine includes coverage for the H1N1 strain that is currently circulating throughout the state,” Dobbs said.
County health departments will be open normal hours today, but closed on New Year’s Day.
Vaccines are widely available at clinics and pharmacies as well.
“It’s not too late. We are still in the early stages of our traditional flu season. It’s vital that all Mississippians – not just the very young and the very old – get vaccinated against flu,” Dobbs said.
According to the CDC, Mississippi is one of four states reporting high levels of influenza-like illness for the week ending Dec. 21, the most current information available. The spread of the flu is considered regional in Mississippi.
This year, there’s a wide variety of the flu vaccine options. The standard flu shot provides protection against three strains of the flu. A high dose vaccine for folks over 65 is designed to get stronger immune reaction. Healthy folks between 2 and 50 who don’t like needles can opt for the Flu Mist.
New this year are vaccines that provide protection against four strains of the flu. Cell-based flu shots offer protection against the seasonal flu to adults with severe egg allergies.