Two Idaho children have died from flu-related causes

Idaho public health officials are reporting that two Idaho children have died from influenza-related causes. One child lived in northern Idaho and the other in eastern Idaho. The Department of Health and Welfare and Idaho public health districts are also investigating reports of the death of a third child, also from the eastern part of the state, which appears to be related to influenza.

Most influenza-related deaths in Idaho occur among older adults, which makes these recent deaths unusual. During the last five flu seasons, only one influenza-related death occurred among children in Idaho.

”Our hearts go out to the families of these children. This flu strain appears to be impacting some children in Idaho heavily, and we want to make sure that Idahoans are taking precautions to stay safe this flu season,” said Dr. Christine Hahn, medical director for the department’s Division of Public Health. “Influenza illness has been increasing in Idaho and around the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted they have seen more pediatric influenza deaths than usual by this time of year. If you or your children are sick with the flu, contact your medical provider; there are medications that can reduce the severity and duration of the illness.”

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from flu. Along with seeking medical attention and staying home if you are sick, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and washing your hands frequently, everyone 6 months of age or older should be vaccinated each year. The flu vaccine is particularly important if you have a higher risk for severe illness and complications from influenza. Consult with a healthcare provider to determine which vaccine might be right for you, based on your medical history and age.

Certain people have a higher risk of complications from influenza, including:

Adults 65 years and older
Pregnant women
Young children
People with asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, or a history of stroke
People with compromised immune systems from cancer or HIV infection
Children with certain neurologic conditions

In addition, other vaccines will help prevent or reduce some bacterial respiratory infections such as whooping cough and pneumococcal pneumonia. These bacteria often circulate during influenza season and can contribute to severe respiratory disease among children and people with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or weakened immune systems. Talk to your doctor about whether you should also get vaccines to protect against those diseases.

It is too soon to predict if this influenza season will be more severe than previous influenza seasons. However, data available from the CDC indicate the current season is earlier than normal and influenza B has been circulating more than influenza A. The influenza B strains may be impacting children more severely than adults.

For more information about flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza page at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm

To learn more about influenza activity in Idaho, visit http://flu.idaho.gov

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