Maine Child's Flu-Related Death Has Officials Urging People to Get the Vaccine

Flu cases are rising across the United States, Dr. James Jarvis noted, which is likely attributed to fewer people wearing masks and more people gathering indoors following winter COVID-19 surges

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Maine officials are urging people to be aware of late season influenza after a child in the state died of flu.

According to a media release published Tuesday afternoon, the child died of the Influenza A strain and was the first pediatric fatality attributed to influenza in Maine’s 2021-2022 flu season.

The news release did not state the age of that child or where they were from.

According to Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive at Northern Light Health, one of the largest healthcare networks in Maine, it’s unusual for Influenza A to be so prevalent this late into their flu season.

Normally, Influenza B becomes the more prevalent strain of flu as Maine enters summer.

Though he did not care for the child who died, Jarvis said that this incident is a stark example of how severe flu can be.

"Obviously, I’m very sorry to hear that a child lost their life due to something that, most times, can be prevented. We don’t know all the details about that," he said, adding that, "it does remind us that influenza can be a deadly disease, so people should be taking precautions to prevent it."

Jarvis also noted that cases of flu are rising across the United States, which is likely attributed to fewer people wearing masks and more people gathering indoors following winter COVID-19 surges.

Should someone who presents symptoms receive a positive flu test, Jarvis said that person may want to ask their health care provider about antiviral treatments to reduce symptoms.

He also echoed a Maine CDC recommendation that people should still get flu shots before they get sick, even though it is June and this flu season’s vaccine may not be a perfect match for this Influenza A strain.

"You still get some protection," said Jarvis, adding that, "sometimes we’re talking about only a 45% likelihood of decreasing severe disease, but that’s still better than nothing."

Jarvis also hopes that cases of influenza and COVID together do not create a scarcity of hospital beds this coming summer, as Maine’s annual rush of tourists, who also have healthcare needs, begins, with flu and COVID lingering.

"We’re already starting to see that summer strain on our health system and it will probably only get worse before it gets better," he said.

Flu prevention tips from Maine CDC include hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough, staying home when you're sick and to get a flu shot.

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