NYC confirms first pediatric flu death of the season

A child from New York City has died from the flu, health officials announced on Thursday, marking the first flu-related pediatric death of the season.

Acting New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot declined to provide any other details, citing patient privacy, but did confirm the individual was under the age of 18.

“Every year, we see between zero and eight children die because of the flu,” said Barbot, during an event at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica urging people to get their flu shots. “So while pediatric deaths from the flu are not unusual, they are sad reminders of the consequences of not getting immunized.”

All New Yorkers should get the flu vaccine, especially children between the ages of six months and five years of age, pregnant women and adults 50 and older, she said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 80,000 flu deaths in the United States last year. Statistics also show 183 children — including five from New York City — died from influenza-related diseases, and over 900,000 hospitalizations across the country were attributed to the flu.

“The flu season last year was one of the worst we have had in recent years,” said Barbot, who noted while the current flu activity in the city is low, it is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

Even though flu vaccines are widely available at clinics, chain pharmacies and other locations, only 44 percent of New Yorkers 18 years and older were vaccinated in 2017, according to the city Health Department.

About one-third of children under 5 were not vaccinated during the 2017-18 flu season, which runs from late fall through spring.

“Despite the serious risk of illness, not enough New Yorkers get the vaccination on a yearly basis,” Barbot said.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for disease control, said people who do get the flu need to take precautions, such as limiting contact with other people and staying home.

He also dismissed a common myth that getting a flu shot will make you sick.

“This is exactly the right time to get a vaccination,” he said.

People can use an online map on the Health Department website, call 311 or text “flu” to 877877 to find out where to get a flu shot.

“Every death, every hospitalization is preventable,” Barbot said.