The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the state’s first flu death for the 2014-2015 flu season. An elementary school-aged child in the Triangle region of the State died last week because of complications from an influenza infection. The child was at risk for complications from the flu because of underlying medical conditions.

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3D influenza/CDC

To protect the family’s privacy, the child’s hometown, county, age and sex are not being released.

“We extend our thoughts and prayers to the family on their loss,” said State Health Director Robin Cummings, M.D. “We hope that making people aware of this tragic case will encourage preventative measures and remind everyone that it is not too early to be vaccinated. We are very early in the flu season and we expect to see flu activity increase in the coming weeks and months.”

This follows the first flu-related death in neighboring South Carolina reported two days ago.

Preventative measures that everyone can take to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:

  • Stay home when you are sick until you are fever free for at least 24 hours.
  • Vigorously wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.

Health officials also encourage the citizens of North Carolina to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting the flu vaccination, which is now available. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine, available as a nasal spray or shot form.

According to studies cited by CDC, the benefits of the flu vaccination include:

  • Protecting people who are at greater risk of getting seriously ill from flu, such as elderly adults, people with chronic health conditions and young children.
  • Making the illness milder if you do get sick.
  • Reducing the risk of more serious flu outcomes, like hospitalizations and deaths.
  • Protecting women during pregnancy and their babies for up to 6 months after they are born. One study showed that giving flu vaccine to pregnant women was 92% effective in preventing hospitalization of infants for flu.
  • Reducing the risk of flu-related hospitalizations in older adults. A study that looked at flu vaccine effectiveness over the course of three flu seasons estimated that flu vaccination lowered the risk of hospitalizations by 61% in people 50 years of age and older.

“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” said Dr. Cummings, “They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but they also help protect the entire community by reducing and preventing the spread of infectious diseases.”