Mississippi reports first pediatric flu death of season

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported its first pediatric influenza death for the 2013-2014 season on Monday in a child with chronic underlying health conditions.

Including the recent case in north Mississippi, there were 12 pediatric flu deaths reported in the state since the statistic became reportable during the 2007-2008 flu season. Pediatric deaths are deaths of individuals 18 years of age and under.

"This is another serious reminder that it is important for people of all ages to get the flu vaccination," Thomas Dobbs, the MSDH state epidemiologist, said. "Fortunately, this year's flu vaccine includes coverage for the H1N1 strain that is currently circulating throughout the state."

The MSDH said it is receiving reports of serious illnesses and deaths from flu in young and middle-aged adults, many of whom were healthy prior to their illness. The 2009 influenza A H1N1 strain is the only strain identified in Mississippi this flu season. In past years, the strain primarily affected individuals under the age of 65.

The MSDH said flu vaccinations are recommended for individuals aged six months and older. The department said vaccination is particularly important for children younger than five years of age with underlying medical conditions such as neurological disorders or asthma.

Seasonal flu symptoms include cough, fever and extreme fatigue in most cases. Muscle aches, runny or stuffy nose, headache and sore throat can also be present.