The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that the first influenza-associated pediatric death of the 2015-2016 flu season has been reported in Michigan, an unfortunate reminder of how serious influenza can be, and MDHHS is reminding residents that it is not too late to get vaccinated for flu this season.

ThinkStock; Joanne Myers

The reported death was a school-aged child from the Southeast region of Michigan. Although this flu season has been relatively mild in Michigan so far, flu viruses are circulating in the community and can cause serious illness, hospitalization, and death. MDHHS strongly recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.

Nearly three quarters of the positive influenza specimens confirmed by MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories this flu season have been the 2009 H1N1 virus. This virus can cause severe flu infections in children and in young- and middle-aged adults. The 2015-2016 flu vaccines are a very good match to the flu viruses that are circulating nationally. Flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting the flu and can also reduce the severity of flu illness.

Although flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and older, vaccine is especially important for persons at increased risk for complications from flu, including children, adults aged 65 years and older, persons of any age with underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women. Children less than 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated and need to be protected by vaccination of their close contacts, including parents, siblings, grandparents, child care workers, and healthcare personnel.

“We need to do everything we can to prevent pediatric deaths from influenza, and flu is a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive for the MDHHS. “Vaccine is the best way to protect against getting the flu, and there is still time to get vaccinated this flu season.”

In the 2014-2015 flu season, only 44 percent of Michigan residents were vaccinated against flu, putting Michigan in 40th place in the country. MDHHS urges residents to make sure they protect themselves and their families against getting flu this season.

Source: Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services