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Chicago health department reports 1st flu-related death of child this season

After an estimated 80,000 flu deaths in the United States last season, Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams on Thursday urged Americans to get vaccinated this year.

Only about 3 percent of people visiting doctors offices are reporting flu systems, a drop from about 6 percent at this time last season, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. | AP file photo

A child died in Chicago’s first flu-related pediatric fatality this season, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

The death was disclosed in the department’s Feb. 10 to 16 report on influenza cases in the city. Further information was not immediately released.

“Complications from influenza continue to occur in individuals at highest risk,” CDPH’s director of public affairs Anel Ruiz said in a statement Wednesday. “CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccination for everyone six months of age and older. It is not too late to get the flu shot.”

Since the 2018 to 2019 season began on Sept. 30, 144 people have been hospitalized in intensive-care units because of the virus, the city’s most recent report said. Nearly one in five patients were children.

Ruiz noted that flu infections are still down compared to the same time last year. In the 2017 to 2018 season, two child deaths and 420 influenza-related ICU visits had transpired in the city by Feb. 17, according to CDPH data.

This year’s hospitalizations still surpass those of two years ago, however. At this time in the 2016 to 2017 season, 111 people had been in ICU care to treat flu symptoms.

The most recent influenza surveillance report from the Illinois Department of Public Health ruled the virus was “widespread” in the state for the week of Feb. 10 to 16. Over 500 people in the state have been admitted to ICUs this season, and three children have died as a result of the flu.

Nationally, flu activity peaked this week and brought total flu-related deaths in children to 41, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Illinois was not among the 30 states with highest influenza prevalence, but it still reported moderate and widespread flu activity.

The CDC warned the virus’s reach will “remain elevated” in the coming weeks and reiterated a plea for everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.