North Carolina records first pediatric flu death of the season

North Carolina recorded its first pediatric death from complications related to influenza this season when a six-year old died from the illness this week.

State health officials would not release the child's name, gender or home-county, but did say that the child had an underlying medical condition and was therefore at risk for complications, according to

Every year, an estimated 25,000 people in the United States die from influenza infections and an additional 220,000 are hospitalized.

"Unfortunately, this reminds us that flu is a serious illness and can be potentially devastating to people at any age," Dr. Laura Gerald, the state health director, said, reports.

Flu activity in North Carolina has been relatively mild this season, but the rate of infection has increased in recent weeks.

"It is not too late to get your flu shot because flu season can last well into the spring," Gerald said, according to

Gerald also emphasized that people should take typical precautions to limit the flu's spread, including frequent hand washing and staying home if symptoms appear.

The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone who is over the age of six months. People at high risk for developing complications, like pregnant women, those with chronic illness, the very young and the very old, are especially urged to take the flu shot. Almost half of the children that died last year from influenza had no conditions that put them into the high risk category.