FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 11, 2020
Media Contact: Em Stephens, Respiratory Disease Coordinator, 804-864-7254;
Dawn Saady, Epidemiology Program Manager, 804-864-8117
Health Officials Report Virginia’s First Pediatric Flu Death of the 2019–20 Season
(RICHMOND, Va.) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reports the state’s first influenza-associated pediatric death for the 2019-20 flu season. A teenager (13-17 years old) in Virginia’s Northern region has died from complications associated with influenza. To protect the family’s privacy, VDH will not provide any further information regarding this death.
“We offer our condolences and deepest sympathies to this child’s family,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A., “Sadly, this is a tragic reminder that flu can be a serious illness, and we encourage everyone to take precautions to protect themselves and others.”
Flu has been widespread in Virginia since December 2019. VDH has investigated a total of 61 flu outbreaks during the 2019-20 flu season through February 1, and received reports of 773 pneumonia and influenza-associated deaths. On average, three flu-related pediatric deaths are reported each year in Virginia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that influenza has resulted in 22-31 million illnesses, 210,000-370,000 hospitalizations and 12,000-30,000 deaths in the U.S. so far this flu season. Certain groups are at higher risk for serious illness from flu, including children younger than 5, pregnant women, people aged 65 and older, and those with suppressed immune systems or certain chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease.
“Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu,” said Dr. Oliver. “Even at this time of year, if you haven’t had the flu shot, you should make an appointment and get it. There is still time to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season.”
Flu activity in Virginia typically peaks between December and February, but can remain elevated into the spring.
VDH recommends taking three actions to prevent the flu:
- get vaccinated every year;
- practice good public 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
- take antivirals as prescribed if you do become sick with the flu.
To locate a seasonal flu vaccine clinic near you, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov or contact your local health department. For more information on flu in Virginia, visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/influenza-flu-in-virginia/.