North Carolina has logged its first pediatric death from the flu in the current season, marking the state’s first such death since 2020.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) made the announcement in a statement Wednesday. While the agency did not disclose further details about the child, it noted that the child was from the “eastern part of the state,” and that the death was from “complications associated with influenza infection.”
This, the agency noted, marks the first state’s first pediatric flu death for the 2022-2023 season and also the first since February 2020.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to this child’s family on this heartbreaking and tragic loss,” Dr. Zack Moore, state epidemiologist, said in the NCDHHS statement.
There have also been five flu-associated deaths among adults in North Carolina during the current season.
The news comes as experts continue to express their concerns about the confluence of COVID-19, the flu season and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) to create a “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses this winter. RSV infections in young children, for instance, have been pushing U.S. hospitals to capacity, with some patients testing positive “for more than one virus.”
North Carolina, for instance, has been seeing increasing levels of both influenza and RSV this year compared to the same period in previous years. According to the NCDHHS, the trend in the state is “similar to what is being seen nationally.”
Based on federal data released as of Oct. 28, there have been 880,000 illnesses, 6,900 hospitalizations and 360 deaths related to flu. The hospitalization rate in week 42 is higher than the ones observed in other seasons “going back to 2010-2011,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
So far, the southeast and south-central areas are seeing the “highest level of activity,” the agency noted.
As such, authorities are recommending that those who are 6 months or older get a flu shot annually.
“An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu,” the CDC reportedly said. “Vaccination helps prevent infection and can also prevent serious outcomes in people who get vaccinated but still get sick with flu.”
According to the NCDHHS, studies have shown that vaccines can reduce the risks of flu-related death by half in children with medical conditions, and even by two-thirds among children considered “healthy.”
“There is still time to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season,” Dr. Moore said, as per NCDHHS. “If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine yet, now is the time.”