North Carolina reports first pediatric flu death since 2020

North Carolina has recorded its first pediatric flu-related death of the current season, marking the state’s first such death since 2020.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced in a statement on Wednesday. While the agency did not release further details about the child, it noted that the child was from the “eastern part of the state” and that the death was due to “complications associated with influenza infection.”

This, the agency noted, marks the first flu-related death in children for the 2022-2023 season and also the first since February 2020.

“We offer our deepest sympathies to the family of this child for this shocking and tragic loss,” said Dr. State Epidemiologist Zack Moore said in a statement from NCDHHS.

There have also been five flu-related deaths among adults in North Carolina this season.

The news comes as experts continue to express concern about the confluence of COVID-19, the flu season and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) to create a “triple fluke” of respiratory illnesses this winter. RSV infections in young children, for example, have pushed US hospitals to capacity, with some patients testing positive “for more than one virus.”

North Carolina, for example, has been seeing increasing levels of influenza and RSV this year compared to the same period in previous years. According to NCDHHS, the trend in the state is “similar to what is seen nationally.”

Based on federal data released on Oct. 28, there have been 880,000 illnesses, 6,900 hospitalizations and 360 deaths from the flu. Hospitalizations in week 42 are higher than those seen in other seasons “going back to 2010-2011,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So far, the southeast and south-central regions are seeing the “highest levels of activity,” the agency said.

As such, authorities recommend that those 6 months of age or older receive a flu shot annually.

“The annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu,” the CDC reportedly said. “Vaccination helps prevent infection and can also prevent serious consequences in people who get vaccinated but still get the flu.”

According to the NCDHHS, studies have shown that vaccines can cut the risk of flu-related deaths by half in children with illnesses, and by as much as two-thirds among children who are considered “healthy.”

“There’s still time to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season,” said Dr. Moore said, as at NCDHHS. “If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, now is the time.”

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