CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health has confirmed West Virginia’s first influenza related pediatric death for this season. No details will be revealed to protect the family’s privacy.

“The loss of a child is profound,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, acting State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “While most individuals recover from the flu, it can be a serious and life-threatening illness in both children and adults, especially those with existing health conditions and compromised immunity. We extend our deepest sympathies to this family.”

Those who are mostly susceptible to flu include children under the age of five years old, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions and immunodeficiencies . Infants under six months of age are not allowed to receive the influenza vaccine. The best way to protect them is to have everyone who will have contact with the infant receive a flu vaccine, and also limit an infant’s exposure to large groups of individuals.

“Now is the ideal time to get your flu shot, as West Virginia is experiencing a historically early start to the flu season. The flu vaccine is the first line of defense to protect yourself, and people around you who are vulnerable to the serious effects of the flu. We urge all West Virginians 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated against the flu.”

Shannon McBee, State Epidemiologist

People who think they might have the flu should contact their doctor immediately to protect themselves and others around them and to get the right treatment. Treatment with an antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness, and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health.

People can take other precautions protect against the spread of flu and other viruses include:

  • Staying home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discarding the tissue promptly
  • Washing hands frequently, preferably with soap and water

“For the past two consecutive years, flu vaccine rates in West Virginia have been lower than they were before the pandemic,” added McBee. “Despite seeing more flu cases in our state and the nation, we are concerned about the lack of an uptick in vaccine rates. Additionally, RSV and COVID cases continue to circulate which could further overwhelm our hospital system.”

While adult flu deaths are not too much of a concern to report, or do not need to be reported at all in West Virginia, influenza related deaths of children under the age of 18 must be reported to be reported to the local health department within one week. These cases are then reported to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so far five influenza pediatric deaths have been reported nationwide during the 2022-2023 influenza season.

For more information, you can visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm or https://oeps.wv.gov/flu/pages/default.aspx. To locate a flu vaccine, please visit https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/.