Federal health officials notified Maine on Tuesday that the state’s first case of an influenza-associated pediatric death has been confirmed.

The child, a resident of Washington County, was unvaccinated and tested positive for influenza, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. The child’s age and gender were not disclosed.

DHHS spokeswoman Emily Spencer said in an email that such details are considered potentially identifiable information and were not released to protect the family’s privacy.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a pediatric death as being a person under the age of 18.

“Our hearts go out to the family and community affected by this tragedy,” acting Maine CDC Director Nancy Beardsley said in a statement. “Maine CDC wants to ensure that Mainers know the steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones, starting with vaccination. Influenza vaccine is still widely available, and it is not too late to get vaccinated.”

According to the DHHS,  the child’s death is the first influenza-associated pediatric death reported in Maine during the 2018-19 season and the first since March 2016. Flu season runs from October through May.

The Maine CDC, in its weekly influenza surveillance report, said four influenza-related deaths were reported for the week ending April 6, bringing the total influenza deaths for the state during the 2018-2019 season to 39.

The Maine CDC recommends vaccination for anyone ages 6 months old or older. The state provides the vaccine at no cost for all children under the age of 19.

Influenza-associated pediatric deaths are reportable in Maine. An influenza-associated death is when a person has symptoms with a positive influenza test and dies before recovering.

Influenza causes a fever, cough and sore throat. Most people with the flu experience a mild illness. But certain people are at high risk for more serious illness, including young children, people age 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions.

People can prevent the spread of the flu by washing their hands, covering their mouths when coughing, and staying home when sick.

The federal CDC on its website said a total of 82 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported nationwide during the 2018-2019 flu season. In 2017-2018, the CDC reported 186 pediatric deaths; 110 deaths in 2016-2017; and 95 deaths in 2015-2016.

For questions about vaccinations, the public can contact the Maine Immunization Program at 800-867-4775 or through [email protected].

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

 

 

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