Just as the state health department announced the first death of an individual from influenza, comes an announcement from the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency that an infant in the county has died from the virus.
The deceased is a child under the age of one year with an underlying medical condition, according to the county health department.
"The death of this infant is a tremendous loss and our condolences go out to the family," said Public Health Director Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo. "As we enter the 2015-16 season, it is important for Stanislaus County residents receive the annual flu vaccine and take other preventive measures to reduce the spread of illness and help prevent further loss of life."
Young children less than a year of age are at increased risk of severe influenza. While children cannot be vaccinated for the flu until they are six months old, there are several ways to protect them. Pregnant women can get vaccinated, and this will protect the mother and the newborn baby, according to health officials. Also, anyone who is around a young child or other high-risk person should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of spreading influenza.
"As California's public health officer, I am saddened when the flu turns into loss of life," Dr. Karen Smith, the director of the California Department of Public Health said. "It is especially troubling when a baby, too young to be vaccinated, passes away. To protect babies who cannot yet be vaccinated, we should get our flu shots. Preventing the spread of this often deadly disease is why getting vaccinated is so important."
Each year, flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths in the United States.
Flu can cause severe disease across all ages. According to the California influenza surveillance report recently published, there were 78 influenza-associated deaths reported in persons under 65 years of age in California during the 2014-15 influenza season. Only deaths in persons under age 65 are reported to CDPH and many influenza-associated deaths are unrecognized. Therefore, the actual number of deaths due to influenza was much greater.
Common symptoms of the flu include fever or feeling feverish, a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, chills, fatigue and body aches. Children may also have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
To stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses, Californians should also:
· Stay home when sick;
· Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue and properly dispose of the used tissue;
· Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Smith encourages Californians to contact their health care provider, physician office, clinic or pharmacy about obtaining the flu vaccine. Some local health departments may also offer low- or no-cost flu immunizations. For more information about the flu visit the CDPH influenza web page.To find a flu vaccine location nearby, visit www.flu.gov.