First Pediatric Influenza Death Reported in San Diego

March 13, 2013 | 12:42pm
Three additional deaths were reported for this flu season, including the first child’s death, the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) announced today.

A 10-month old child who had underlying health conditions died in February and was referred to the medical examiner to determine the cause of death. In past flu seasons, San Diego has reported zero or one pediatric death each year due to influenza. Last year there was one pediatric death.  The total number of overall deaths for this flu season is 51.

“Sadly, there are influenza deaths every year. Unfortunately some of these deaths occur in children,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.

Prior to the reporting of this infant death, the ages of San Diego residents who died from influenza this season ranged from 37 to 99 years.  All but one had underlying medical conditions or advanced age. The reported number of flu-related deaths is the second highest on record. Fifty-eight deaths were reported during the 2009-2010 H1N1 Pandemic Flu season.

Based on the latest Influenza Watch report, covering the week ending March 9, 2013, HHSA is reporting the following:

  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 256 (272 last week)
  • Influenza-like-illness at emergency departments during the week: 5 percent (4 percent last week)
  • Total lab-confirmed influenza cases to date: 5,046

While influenza commonly affects the elderly, other individuals including pregnant women, infants, and people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system are also at higher risk for complications.

While the influenza season typically ends in late March or early April, influenza activity is reported throughout the year. That’s why County health officials say it’s always a good idea to get vaccinated.

“Infants and young children are one of the groups at higher risk of developing complications from the flu. People should continue to take preventive measures to avoid getting sick, including getting the vaccine,” Wooten added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months or older, who is not allergic to it, should get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is safe, effective, and available at many locations in the county. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated.

This season’s flu vaccine offers protection against Influenza A H3N2, Pandemic H1N1-like, and Influenza B strains. Latest research by CDC has determined the vaccine to  be 59% effective. However, it is still considered one of the best steps one can take for preventing influenza.

The vaccine is available throughout San Diego County at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. County public health centers have flu vaccine available for children and adults with no medical insurance. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

In addition to getting the vaccine, there are other precautions people can take to avoid getting sick: wash your hands thoroughly and often, use hand sanitizers, stay away from sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and clean commonly touched surfaces. If you are sick, stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others.