MAINE, USA — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) said it was notified this week of the first pediatric influenza-associated death of the 2019-2020 flu season.
The child from southern Maine was younger than five years old and was not vaccinated against influenza this season. The child tested positive for influenza B. To protect the family’s privacy, the Maine CDC is releasing no further information about the death at this time.
Health providers in Maine must report influenza-associated deaths among those under age 18. An influenza-associated death is when a person dies after having symptoms and a positive influenza test. However, the Maine CDC does note that many influenza-associated deaths are also due to a secondary infection - meaning an infection such as pneumonia that sets in while a person has the flu. This is why the Maine CDC reports pneumonia and influenza (P&I) deaths.
The Maine CDC said it has recorded 19 adult deaths that are at least partially attributable to the flu this season, according to death certificate data. Flu season typically runs from late September to May.
The Maine CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season, even in January or later.
The Maine CDC said the vaccination is especially important for people who are high risk or who are in close contact with high-risk people. This includes children at high risk of developing complications from flu illness and adults who are close contacts of those children.
Flu vaccines are updated each season as needed to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The 2019-2020 vaccine has been updated from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses. Immunity from vaccination sets in after about two weeks.
“We express our deep condolences to the family for their loss,” Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah said.
According to the Maine CDC, influenza causes a fever (≥100°F) and a cough or sore throat. Most people with influenza have a mild illness. However, certain people are at high risk for more serious illness including young children, people aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions.
The Maine CDC said influenza can be treated with antiviral medication. The antiviral treatment works best when started within two days of getting sick. However, starting treatment later can still be helpful, especially for people at high risk for serious influenza illness.
The Maine CDC said you should contact your doctor if you or your child are at high risk of serious illness and develop influenza symptoms.