Connecticut Sees First Child Flu Death This Season | Connecticut Public Radio
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Connecticut Sees First Child Flu Death This Season

Feb 6, 2020

A child has died from the flu, state officials announced Thursday, making it the first pediatric fatality in the state this season.

The child was from New Haven County and was between 1 and 4 years old, according to Department of Public Health officials.

“The death of any child is an absolute tragedy, and our hearts go out [to] the Connecticut family who lost their child last week,” DPH Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell said in a statement. “Please, it is not too late to get a flu shot, and there are measures we can all take that can help keep us healthy this season.”

The state is in peak flu season -- more than 1,300 people have been hospitalized, and over 6,400 have tested positive for the illness, according to the latest surveillance report.

The deceased child was among nine people who died from the flu last week, bringing the state’s total this season to 32 people.

Alan Siniscalchi, DPH influenza surveillance coordinator, said the child died from influenza type B, which is so far accounting for a larger percentage of all cases this season.

“This is quite different from the last couple seasons where we had very little flu B and the predominant flu A strain was known as the H3N2 subtype,” Siniscalchi said. “Both the flu A H1N1 and flu B in general tend to be associated with more illness in children as well as college-aged younger individuals.”

Local flu cases and deaths come at a time of global concern about the novel coronavirus that originated in China, where thousands have become sick and hundreds have died.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that risk to the American general public remains low.

There are 12 confirmed cases in the United States, mostly among people who have traveled to affected areas abroad. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced the latest case Wednesday.

There have been no confirmed cases in Connecticut, and state public health officials have emphasized that the flu poses a much larger and probable risk to people here.

“People, I think, are a little bit more aware of respiratory disease in general when they’re reading all about the coronavirus outbreak and all the work that health departments around the world are doing to evaluate the risk,” Siniscalchi said. “But there’s no question that influenza is a much bigger health impact, certainly in the United States and in Connecticut.”

Coleman-Mitchell emphasized in a statement that “influenza is the virus that we are most worried about right now.”

People at higher risk of serious flu complications include infants and young children, pregnant women, residents 65 years and older, as well as people with chronic or preexisting health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine, DPH officials recommend a number of things people can do to prevent illness or limit the spread of disease: cover coughs and sneezes, maintain frequent hand washing, stay home if sick, and disinfect surfaces at home.

Flu season on average runs through March, but it has extended as far as May in previous years.