Public Health announces the first death from childhood influenza in the 2022-2023 influenza season – PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER

Public Health has learned that a child in King County has died from complications from the flu. The elementary school-aged child died on November 13, 2022. This is the first reported death from childhood flu this season in King County and in Washington state. This is also the first pediatric flu death in King County since the 2019-2020 season. Since October, we’ve seen local flu activity earlier and faster than in past seasons.

This death comes on top of a sharp and unprecedented rise in illnesses and hospitalizations in King County and nationwide among children due to infections caused by multiple respiratory viruses. Hospitals reported being overwhelmed as respiratory viruses spread in children. These trends are likely to continue in the coming weeks.

“It is so tragic that we have lost a child to illness, and our hearts go out to that child’s family and loved ones,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Public Health Officer for Public Health – King County & Seattle, “Influenza hits young children especially hard, as well as people of any age with conditions.” Essential medical, pregnant women, and people over 65 years of age. Since influenza activity usually stays high for several months, now is the time for children and adults to get their annual flu vaccine if they are not already vaccinated, and to take steps to protect those who may be most at risk, including staying away from others when we are sick.”

How to help prevent disease and protect the most vulnerable

  • Get your flu shot and update your COVID-19 booster now. There is no vaccination against respiratory syncytial virus. However, being vaccinated against other respiratory viruses – COVID-19 and influenza – will help keep you safe and help protect our fragile healthcare system. It is safe to get the flu and COVID vaccines at the same time if the individual is due for both.- Flu vaccine: Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot every year. Flu vaccination clinics. Information in Spanish.

    COVID booster: Everyone 5 years of age or older who received a COVID-19 shot (booster or primary series) at least 2 months ago is eligible and must receive the updated booster. So even if you got a COVID-19 booster before, you should still get this updated booster.

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when in indoor public spaces.
  • If you are sick – even if you test negative for COVID-19 – stay home. This is especially important if you are bringing young childrenor the elderly, pregnant women, or people with underlying medical conditions.

Recommendations for families with young children and pregnant women

Pregnant women should be vaccinated: Pregnant women are at increased risk of serious illness and pregnancy complications from both influenza and COVID-19. We strongly recommend that pregnant women get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster update now, if they have not already been vaccinated. This is important to protect both the pregnant woman and the baby because the antibodies will be passed from the parent to the baby.

Limit contact with infants and vaccinate the family around them: Due to the high level of respiratory viruses circulating, consider limiting the number of people children come into contact with, and sick people should stay away from newborns and infants. Ensure that all family members who may be vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19 are aware of these vaccines. This helps provide protection for children who are unable to be vaccinated.

Public health response

Public Health – Seattle and King County are working with the community to help reduce new infections, and support the health care system in managing and minimizing the impact of this surge.

Schools, day care centers and the wider community receive information from public health to encourage vaccination and prevention steps.

Public Health has also issued health guidance to health care providers in King County, encouraging them to take steps to reduce the burden on overwhelmed hospitals. This includes:

  • Sharing prevention messages to distribute to their patients
  • Encouraging extended telehealth services, telephone triage and clinical office hours where possible
  • Encouraging service providers to provide COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations to patients who are not up to date
  • Giving medications as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms when required to minimize severe illness
  • Promote continued universal coverage in all healthcare facilities

Originally published on 11/23/2022

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