January 9, 2020

First Pediatric Flu-Related Death of Season Reported in Chicago

Flu activity is high and CDPH urges continued vaccination as best protection

Elena Ivanova    elena.ivanova@cityofchicago.org

CHICAGO – The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is reporting the first flu-related pediatric death of the 2019-20 flu season in Chicago and Illinois. Overall, influenza activity is high and at its peak. Nationally, this flu season has resulted in a higher number of pediatric deaths earlier in the season compared to previous years and children continue to be at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications. No other information will be released on the Chicago case due to patient privacy.

“The single best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu is to get vaccinated,” said CDPH Acting Commissioner Allison Arwady, MD, MPH. “People should know that it is not too late to get the flu vaccine; it is safe, effective, and universally available.”

Everyone six months of age or older is encouraged to get a flu shot. It protects against several strains of influenza and can make your illness milder if you do get sick. Studies show it reduces the chances of hospitalization and death in children and adults with underlying health conditions. When you get vaccinated, you are also helping to protect others who cannot get vaccinated, such as infants under six months of age or people with weakened immune systems.

If prescribed, residents are encouraged to take antiviral medicine to treat or prevent the flu. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick. Check with your doctor promptly if you are at high risk of serious flu complications and you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. There are no current shortages of antiviral medications being reported. Visit MedFinder to find a pharmacy that stocks antiviral medication near you.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that so far this season there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from flu nationally. In addition to widespread influenza activity, other respiratory viral infections like RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are circulating, leading to high patient volumes in emergency departments and outpatient provider offices. You can reduce your risk of spreading viruses like influenza by:

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. 
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people. If you are sick, stay home from school or work for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

You can visit CDPH’s Flu Clinic Finder at chicagoflushots.org to find a flu shot location in your neighborhood and www.chicago.gov/flu for updates on local flu activity. Chicago residents can also receive a no-cost flu shot at any of the city’s walk-in immunization clinics. Please call ahead for high-dose vaccine availability.

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