West Virginia: 1st pediatric flu death reported of season


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The West Virginia Office of Public Health, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), has confirmed the first flu-related child death in West Virginia for the 2022-23 flu season.

Photo / Robert Hermann

“Losing a child is critical,” said Dr. Ain Amjad, Acting Health Officer and Commissioner for Public Health at DHHR. “While most individuals recover from influenza, it can be a serious and life-threatening illness for both children and adults, especially those with existing health conditions and compromised immunity. We express our deepest condolences to this family.”

People most at risk of contracting influenza and its complications are children under five years of age, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, etc.). Babies younger than six months old cannot receive the flu shot. The best way to protect them is for everyone who comes into contact with the infant to get the flu shot, as well as to limit the infant’s exposure to large groups of individuals.

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“Now is the perfect time to get a flu shot, as West Virginia is experiencing a historically early start to flu season. A flu shot is the first line of defense to protect yourself and the people around you who are exposed to the dangerous effects of flu,” state epidemiologist Shannon McCabe said. West Virginia adults 6 months of age and older are eligible for the influenza vaccination.

People who think they may have the flu should call their doctor right away to see if they need treatment with prescription antiviral medications that can help prevent their flu infection from becoming more serious. Treatment with an antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe influenza illness, and people at risk for serious influenza complications based on their age or health.

Other precautions people can take to protect against the spread of influenza and other viruses include:

  • Stay home when sick until the fever is cleared for at least 24 hours

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of them immediately

  • Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water

“Over the past two consecutive years, flu vaccine rates in West Virginia have been lower than they were before the pandemic,” McBee added. Although we are seeing more cases of influenza in our state and nation, we are concerned that there has not been a slight increase in vaccination rates. In addition, cases of RSV and COVID continue to spread which could further overburden our hospital system.”

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