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First pediatric flu death confirmed in Maricopa County for 2019-2020 season

Posted at 11:09 AM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 00:22:10-05

An infant under the age of six months has died due to influenza, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

Officials say the infant was not old enough to be immunized.

No child deaths from influenza were reported last season, according to officials. Three children died in 2017 in Maricopa County, but the ages are unknown.

Currently, a total of 935 flu cases have been reported to the department so far this season, which is approximately four times the amount that the county experienced in the previous season.

“This is a tragic reminder that anyone who is able to get the flu shot should, not only to protect themselves, but to protect those around them who are most at risk of severe disease and death from the flu,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the Medical Director for Disease Control with The Maricopa County Department of Public Heath.

"It's the worst feeling in the world when you have to pronounce a kid dead," said Dr. Duane Wooten.

Dr. Wooten though, says that rarely happens because of the flu. "It is so rare to see a child under six months of age get the flu, the actual flu, and die from it," he said.

It is still important for parents to take some steps to try and protect their children, with weaker immune systems, from contracting the flu virus.

"It's very important that parents keep babies who are too young to be vaccinated away from people who are sick," said Dr. Sunenshine.

"That's why I live by what my grandmother used to always say, 'If you are sick, you stay away from babies. Because they can get whatever you have and their immune systems are still developing,'" said Breshawn Harris.

People opposed to vaccinations are quick to point out that the flu vaccine is not always effective.

"The flu vaccine is not effective compared to all other vaccines," admits Dr. Wooten. "But it is still better than no immunity. So I would say they should still get it."

As for new parents, concerned about the required six-month wait period for a newborn's vaccination, Dr. Wooten says, "they shouldn't worry about it."

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health operate three childhood immunization clinics for infants to 19 year olds. You can find locations here.

You can also see what ages the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children are vaccinated here.