Public Health has learned that a child in King County has died of complications from the flu. The elementary school-aged child died on Nov. 13, 2022. This is the first reported pediatric flu death this season in King County and Washington state. This is also the first pediatric flu death in King County since the 2019-2020 season. Since October, we have seen early and rapidly increasing flu activity locally compared to past seasons.
This death comes on top of a sharp and unprecedented increase in illnesses and hospitalizations in King County and nationally among children for infections caused by multiple respiratory viruses. Hospitals report being overcapacity due to high levels of circulating pediatric respiratory viruses. These trends are likely to continue in the coming weeks.
“It is tragic to lose a child to illness and our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of this child,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle and King County. “The flu hits young children especially hard, as well as people of all ages with co-morbidities, pregnant people and people over 65. Because flu activity usually remains elevated for several months, now is a good time for children and adults to get an annual flu shot if they are not already vaccinated, and to take steps to protect those who may be exposed. -high risk, including staying away from others when we are sick.”
How to help prevent disease and protect those who are most vulnerable
- Get your flu shot and updated COVID-19 booster now. There is no vaccination against RSV. However, getting vaccinated against other respiratory viruses – COVID-19 and flu – will help keep you safer and help protect our fragile health system. It is safe to get flu and COVID vaccines at the same time if the person needs them.
– Flu vaccine: Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot every year. Influenza vaccine clinics. Information in Spanish.
– COVID Booster: Anyone over the age of 5 who received a COVID-19 vaccine (booster or primary series) at least 2 months ago is eligible and should receive the updated booster. So, even if you received a COVID-19 booster before, you should still receive this updated booster.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when in indoor public places.
- If you are sick – even if you test negative for COVID-19 – stay home. This is especially important if you will be around small childrenelderly people, pregnant people or people who have co-morbidities.
Recommendations for families with small children and pregnant women
Pregnant people should get vaccinated: Pregnant people are at high risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications from both influenza and COVID-19. We strongly recommend that pregnant people get a flu shot and an updated COVID-19 booster now if they are not already vaccinated. This is important to protect both the pregnant woman and the baby because the antibodies will be transferred from parent to baby.
Limit contact with babies and vaccinate the family around them: given the high level of circulating respiratory viruses, consider limiting the number of people with whom babies are in contact, and sick people should stay away from newborns and infants. Make sure everyone in the family who can be vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 is up to date on these vaccines. This helps to create protection for infants who cannot be vaccinated.
Public health response
Public Health – Seattle and King County are working with the community to help reduce new infections and assist the health care system in managing and reducing the impact of this spike in infections.
Schools, daycare centers and the wider community receive information from public health to promote vaccination and prevention steps.
Public Health also issued a health advisory for health care providers in King County, encouraging them to take steps to reduce the burden on overburdened hospitals. This includes:
- sharing prevention messages to spread to their patients
- promoting expanded telehealth services and telephone triage and clinical appointments where possible
- encouraging providers to offer COVID-19 and flu vaccinations for patients who are not up to date
- giving medication as early as possible after the onset of symptoms when appropriate to reduce severe illness
- promoting continuous masking in all healthcare facilities
Originally published on 11/23/2022