TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Louisiana confirms second pediatric death from flu

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced on Friday that it experienced its second pediatric flu death of the season.

The pediatric death occurred in southeast Louisiana and was reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as is required by federal law. The previous pediatric flu death occurred in northwest Louisiana, demonstrating that the entire state is at risk from flu.

According to the DHH, there were 46 confirmed deaths in the state from flu since October 1. The DHH noted that hundreds of people die in Louisiana each year without ever being diagnosed with the flu or from other conditions made worse from the flu. As a result, the number of reported deaths does not represent the full flu risk to the state's population.

The CDC estimates that since October there may have been up to 500,000 flu cases, up to 5,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 deaths caused by flu in Louisiana.

The DHH strongly encourages all residents to get a seasonal flu vaccination to protect themselves from the disease.

"The flu shot is your best protection," J.T. Lane, the assistant secretary for the DHH's public health sector, said. "It's not too late to vaccinate. Once you get the shot, it takes about (seven to) 10 days to be fully protected. This year's vaccination will protect against the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus."

The CDC recommends that everyone older than six months get the flu vaccine. The vaccine is particularly important for groups at higher risk from flu-related complications, like children under the age of five, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, Alaskan Natives, American Indians and individuals with a weakened immune system.