The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports the first confirmed pediatric influenza death for the 2014-2015 flu season. The death occurred in an individual who lived in Central Mississippi. Pediatric deaths are defined as deaths of individuals under 18 years of age.

generic influenza virion
3D influenza/CDC

Including this reported death, there have been a total of 14 pediatric flu deaths reported in Mississippi since pediatric flu deaths became reportable during the 2007-2008 flu season.

“This is another reminder that influenza infections can lead to serious complications and in some cases, death,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “Peak flu season in Mississippi typically runs from January through March. We know the virus is still very active and is still causing infections throughout the state.”

Dobbs said the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent infection, and vaccination can reduce the risk of complications and death.

“At this point in the season, it’s extremely important to stay home when you’re sick so you don’t infect others. Also be sure to practice good hygiene such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and washing your hands frequently,” said Dobbs. “All persons 6 months of age and older should receive flu vaccination and it is still recommended as long as flu transmission is ongoing.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to an estimated 49,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of the flu.

In Mississippi, only pediatric flu deaths are reportable. Individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, but the agency monitors flu activity through the Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Sentinel Surveillance System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Healthcare providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. MSDH uses this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.

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.