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Virginia reports first pediatric flu death of 2023-24 season

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Health on Thursday reported the Commonwealth’s first death from pediatric flu during the 2023-24 flu season.

“We at the Virginia Department of Health are heartbroken and extend our sympathies to this child’s family during this difficult time,” said state Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton. “Although the flu is common, it can cause serious illness and even death. I urge everyone who is eligible to receive the flu vaccine to do so to not only protect themselves, but also to protect those around them.

The child was aged 5 to 12 and lived in the Eastern region of VDH. VDH did not share additional information for privacy reasons, but said the child died from complications related to the flu.

The state health department says at this time emergency room and urgent care visits due to influenza-like illness are “very high” at 6.9% and even more for young children and school-age children (14.7% and 13.2% of visits, respectively).

However, this flu season as a whole is expected to be within a typical severity range, according to the VDH. In comparison, Virginia reported five flu-related child deaths during the 2022-2023 season.

The VDH recommends taking these three steps to prevent the flu:

  1. Everyone six months and older should receive an annual flu vaccine, consulting your doctor if necessary.
  2. Practice good preventative health with hand hygiene (washing hands regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer), respiratory etiquette (coughing and sneezing in a tissue or inside your elbow rather than in your open hand) and to stay home when you feel sick; And
  3. If you get the flu, seek health care early in your illness if necessary. Antiviral medications prescribed by a healthcare professional are a treatment option for some patients and can help prevent serious flu complications.

You can find a flu vaccine near you at www.vaccinate.virginia.gov or by contacting your local health department.

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