First flu death reported in Mississippi

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported the first pediatric influenza death of the 2017-2018 flu season this week.

According to a release from MSDH, the death occurred in south Mississippi.

This death makes for a total of 17 pediatric flu deaths reported within Mississippi since deaths became reportable during the 2008 to 2009 flu season, the release states. Across the country, a total of 30 deaths have been reported during the current flu season.

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In response to the severity of the season, healthcare professionals encourage everyone to get their flu shots. 

Dr. James Riser of Riser Medical said the flu shot is developed based on the strains seen the previous year. This year’s shot was developed based on four strains observed the year prior, of which the flu shot is effective against three strains and partially effective against the fourth. Riser said children should avoid close contact with those who are sick. Additionally everyone should wash their hands frequently or use alcohol based sanitizers. Care should also be taken to disinfect areas where there is a possibility of the virus being spread.

If a child comes down with the flu, parents should ensure their children drink plenty of fluids and receives ample rest. Additionally, those who contract the flu should dress in layers.

Riser also said parents should know when to take their sick child to the emergency room.

“If the child is breathing fast or has trouble breathing, skin color has turned bluish, are not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or interacting, being irritable to an extent that they refuse to be held, fever with a rash and flu like symptoms that improve but return again with a fever or cough, they need to be brought to the emergency room immediately,” Riser said.

Tracy Ladner, a nurse practitioner at Picayune Family Health Center, said children should be encouraged to cover their cough with the inner elbow, stay away from public spaces where the chance of the virus being spread is more likely. If they do begin to show flu like symptoms, a medical professional can determine if the child should receive an antiviral that will decrease the severity of the symptoms and the duration of the illness.

“Once the children have contracted the flu and the fever isn’t subsiding after 2-3 days, parents should get their children to a clinic or hospital as the secondary infections caused by the flu would be a lot more dangerous,” Ladner said.