JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports the first confirmed pediatric influenza death for the 2013-2014 flu season. The death was a child from North Mississippi with chronic underlying health conditions. Pediatric deaths are defined as deaths of individuals 18 years of age and under.
Including today’s reported death, there have been a total of 12 pediatric flu deaths reported in Mississippi since pediatric flu deaths became reportable during the 2007-2008 flu season.
The MSDH continues to receive reports of serious illnesses and deaths from flu in young and middle-aged adults, many of whom were previously healthy. The only strain identified in Mississippi this flu season has been the 2009 influenza A H1N1 strain, which has in past years primarily affected those under 65 years of age.
“This is another serious reminder that it is important for people of all ages to get the flu vaccination,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “Fortunately, this year’s flu vaccine includes coverage for the H1N1 strain that is currently circulating throughout the state.”
Seasonal flu vaccinations are recommended for anyone ages 6 months and older. Among children, vaccination is especially important for those younger than 5 years or any child with underlying medical conditions such as asthma or neurological or neurodevelopmental disorders. These children are at higher risk for serious complications if they become infected with influenza.
Flu vaccinations for adults and children are available for $30 at all county health department clinics. Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can receive the vaccination for $10. A high-dose flu vaccination for adults 65 and older is available for $55, and the pneumococcal vaccination is available for $83.
The MSDH accepts Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and the State and School Employees’ Health Insurance Plan (AHS).
While individual flu cases and flu-related deaths in adults are not reported to MSDH, the agency monitors flu activity through the Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Sentinel Surveillance System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi such as family practice clinics, student health centers, pediatricians, primary care physicians, and hospital emergency departments who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database.
Symptoms of seasonal flu include fever, cough, and often, extreme fatigue. Sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and a runny or stuffy nose are also often present. More severe symptoms and death can also occur.
While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently.
To locate a county health department clinic in your area or for more information on flu and pneumonia, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com. Follow MSDH by e-mail and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.