First child flu death reported in Florida this season

Florida Department of Health says child was not vaccinated

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – Florida health officials say a child is the first to die during this year's flu season.

The Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Epidemiology said in a report that the unidentified child tested positive for influenza B and died between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6. The report did not say where the child died but did say the child was otherwise healthy before getting the flu.

The child had not been vaccinated.

In the first week of the flu season, the state had only two flu or flu-like outbreaks. One was an unspecific strain and the other was strep throat. The Tampa Bay Times reports both strains hit schools in Hillsborough County.

State officials said those outbreaks did not cause the child's death. No other details were released.

Dr. Ravi Raheja, a Jacksonville-area pediatrician, said while it's too early to tell if the numbers of flu deaths will go up, parents should take precautions. 

"Children 2 and under are always at risk," Raheja said. "So are any kids with underlying medical problems, like asthma or any immune deficiencies, or anything else that makes them susceptible to the flu." 

Raheja also recommended parents keep children who have the flu home from school until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours. 

Health officials said vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu and can reduce a child's likelihood of dying from the flu by 60 percent. 

In addition to getting vaccinated, it’s recommended that you wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. 

Also, clean off surfaces like handles or phones with disinfectant. 

If you start to feel sick, health officials urge you to stay home and avoid close contact. If you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with your upper arm or use a tissue to prevent the spread of germs.  

According to the Florida Department of Health, flu activity in Duval County is increasing. If you need to get the flu shot, it is important to note, it takes about two weeks until it is effective. 

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