Louisiana confirms fifth pediatric flu death

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals confirmed its fifth pediatric flu death of the season last week in a weekly report to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The fatality occurred in the central Louisiana region, which followed two pediatric flu deaths in southeast Louisiana, two in the southwest and one in the northwest. State law requires healthcare professionals and hospitals to report all flu deaths in children to the DHH.

Since October 1, there were 66 laboratory-confirmed flu deaths in Louisiana. The DHH pointed out that hundreds of individuals die annually in the state without ever being diagnosed with the flu, so the figure does not represent the full flu risk to the state's population.

The CDC estimates that since October there may have been up to 650,000 flu cases, up to 6,400 flu-related hospitalizations and as many as 650 deaths caused by influenza in Louisiana.

The Louisiana DHH strongly encouraged all residents who have yet to do so to protect themselves by getting a seasonal flu vaccination. The CDC recommends that all individuals above the age of six months get the flu vaccine.

The DHH said vaccination is also important for individuals living with or caring for high-risk individuals to keep from spreading flu to people who are particularly susceptible to the virus' effects. Such vulnerable groups include children under the age of six months, pregnant women and individuals with a weakened immune system.