The first death of a child in Connecticut during the 2018-19 influenza season has occurred, the Department of Health announced.
The flu remains "widespread" statewide, with four more deaths - including the first child - bringing the death toll to 29 this flu season.
“Our hearts go out to the family of this child. For confidentiality reasons, I can’t provide you with any additional details about this child’s illness”, Department of Health Commissioner Raul Pino said. “I can, however, emphasize the importance of vaccinating children against influenza. In Connecticut, there have been reported 12 flu-associated pediatric deaths from the 2005-06 flu season through the 2017-18 season. Only two of these cases (17 percent) had evidence of current flu vaccination”.
Pino said that children younger than 5 years of age –especially those younger than 2 years old or those with long-term medical conditions – are at risk of serious flu-related complications, including pneumonia, or worsening of long-term medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and diseases of the heart and nervous system. Rarely, flu complications lead to death.
In its weekly report for the week ending on Saturday, Feb. 16, the Department of Health found that the virus continues to spread throughout the state. Despite the high body count, it is still less deaths than this time last year. Officials from the Connecticut State Health Department announced this week that the flu is spreading rapidly throughout the state, with some hospitals reportedly limiting visitation to prevent the spread of the virus.
In Connecticut, the “influenza activity classification” has gone from “sporadic,” to “local,” before being dubbed as “regional” on Nov. 24. It is now at "widespread," as flu activity remains elevated after rapidly increasing last month.
To date, a total of 1,668 hospitalized patients with laboratory-confirmed influence have been admitted between Aug. 26 last year and Feb. 16. There have been a total of 4,540 influenza positive laboratory tests have been reported, including 970 in Fairfield County.
Of the 29 influenza-associated deaths, 25 were associated with unspecific strains, one was connected to H3N2 and two had cases of influenza B. Of the deaths, 17 were over the age of 65, and nine were between the ages of 50 and 64. Three deaths were people between 25 and 49 years old.
According to health officials, "in Connecticut, the Department of Public Health uses multiple systems to monitor circulating influenza viruses. During the influenza season, weekly flu updates are posted from October of the current year, through May of the following year. Annual summaries are also posted for comparison. The national flu picture may vary from what we are seeing on a state level."
Flu season kicks off in earnest in October each year, though patients can still be susceptible to certain strains in September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC said that reported cases tend to increase in November before peaking between December and February. Flu season typically lasts through the middle of the spring. The organization estimates that flu has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses each year in the United States and several deaths. Of those illnesses, an estimated 9 percent were hospitalized.
It takes approximately two weeks following the vaccination for the antibodies to protect against flu to develop in the body, so make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins.
CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, though there is still time to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
Pino said he is "urging residents to get a flu shot to ensure protection through the remainder of the season. It is not too late to protect your health. Everyone can help prevent the spread of flu by doing simple preventative practices such a covering your cough and sneeze and washing hands frequently. Teaching and reminding children of this important health practice is also very important”.
According to the CDC, the flu infects the respiratory tract. “As the infection progresses, the body’s immune system responds to fight the virus.
"This results in inflammation that can trigger respiratory symptoms such as a cough and sore throat. The immune system response can also trigger fever and cause muscle or body aches. When infected persons cough, sneeze, or talk, they can spread influenza viruses in respiratory droplets to people who are nearby. People might also get flu by touching a contaminated surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.”
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