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State health department: Second pediatric flu death of '17-'18 season confirmed

(The following is a press release from the Mississippi State Department of Health.)

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports the second confirmed pediatric influenza death for the 2017-2018 flu season. The death occurred in an individual from Central Mississippi. Pediatric deaths are defined as deaths of individuals under 18 years of age.

Including this reported death, there have been a total of 18 pediatric flu deaths reported in Mississippi since pediatric flu deaths became reportable in the 2008-2009 flu season. Nationwide, as of February 10, 2018, there have been 84 pediatric flu deaths reported this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Byers said influenza activity has decreased from the previous week but still remains higher than this time last year in Mississippi, with reports of widespread activity. “This has been an extremely active flu season, and we know that, unfortunately, flu can lead to serious complications and sometimes death, even for healthy children and young adults,” he said.

Dr. Byers said a flu shot is still the best protection against flu-related complications, and while it may not prevent infection, it can drastically reduce the severity and length of illness and prevent serious complications such as hospitalization and even death.

Flu shots are recommended for all those six months and older. The type of flu virus that is primarily causing illness in Mississippi and nationwide is the H3N2 flu strain, which especially affects individuals over 65 years of age and young children, increasing their risk of complications and hospitalization.

Other prevention methods include staying home