The Massachusetts Department of Public Health [DPH] confirmed the first influenza-associated pediatric death of this flu season in the state.
The child was a Worcester County teenager who tested positive for influenza B.
“I feel immense sorrow for the family of this child. This is a tragic reminder of how serious the flu can be for both children and adults,’’ said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Every flu season is different, but January and February are typically the height of flu season. We want people to know that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”
Last flu season, there were four confirmed pediatric [individuals under the age of 18] flu-related deaths in Massachusetts.
As of Jan. 11, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported a total of 39 influenza-associated pediatric deaths this flu season nationwide.
People who have not received a flu shot to get vaccinated are urged to do so. There is no shortage of vaccine. People who think they may have the flu should call their healthcare provider for guidance and possible treatment. This is particularly important for people with pre-existing health conditions that may make them more susceptible to serious illness when they get the flu.
This season, between 2,000-3,000 Massachusetts residents have been hospitalized with the flu, and there have been 15,000 – 20,000 emergency room visits. DPH tracks flu severity in its weekly flu report published each Friday.
“Flu vaccination is our best protection against illness,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, Medical Director, Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. “People also should remember to wash their hands, cover their cough and sneeze, and stay home when they are sick to limit the spread of disease.”
The most common symptoms of flu are fever, cough, and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose, and feeling very tired. Some people, especially young children, may also have diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms last from a few days to up to a week or more.
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Freiber Betancourth, a 30-year-old Worcester man, was sentenced in federal court today to 12 months and one day in prison today for drug trafficking charges.