Health officials confirmed the first flu-related pediatric death of the season in Massachusetts on Thursday.
The state Department of Public Health said the child was a teenager who lived in Worcester County and tested positive for influenza B.
"I feel immense sorrow for the family of this child. This is a tragic reminder of how serious the flu can be for both children and adults,’’ said Monica Bharel, the state's public health commissioner. “Every flu season is different, but January and February are typically the height of flu season. We want people to know that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”
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Last flu season, there were four confirmed flu-related deaths involving people under the age of 18 in Massachusetts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have reported a total of 39 flu-related deaths this season nationwide.
Health officials continue to urge people who have not received a flu shot to get vaccinated. Anyone who thinks they have the flu should call their health care provider for diagnosis and possible treatment.
Already this season, between 2,000 and 3,000 Massachusetts residents have been hospitalized with the flu, and there have been 15,000 to 20,000 emergency room visits.
"Flu vaccination is our best protection against illness," said Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. "People also should remember to wash their hands, cover their cough and sneeze, and stay home when they are sick to limit the spread of disease."
The most common symptoms of the flu are fever, cough and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose and weariness. Some people, especially young children, may also have diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms last from a few days to a week or more.
"It's not too late to get a flu shot. The flu season is likely to continue for weeks, yet last year it continued until May," Madoff said. "We know that influenza-like illness activity is higher now than it was anytime last year and so we are having a bad flu season."