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Flu season is here; protect yourself

Flu season has officially arrived, with the state confirming the first pediatric influenza death.

The death occurred in an individual from south Mississippi with underlying health conditions. Pediatric deaths are defined as deaths of individuals under 18 years of age.

If you doubted the dangers of the flu, that alone should waken  you to reality. Including this death, there have been a total of 20 pediatric flu deaths reported in Mississippi since pediatric flu deaths became reportable in the 2008-2009 flu season, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health. Nationwide, there have been five pediatric flu deaths reported this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know that last year there were 183 influenza deaths in children, three of which were in Mississippi,” said MSDH Interim State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “Nationally, about 80 percent of the pediatric deaths were in children who were not vaccinated against the flu.”

Mississippi’s first laboratory-confirmed case of flu was reported Tuesday, and it is now all the more important to make sure your entire family gets their flu shots if they have not already, said Dobbs.

Flu season typically peaks in January through March in Mississippi, and the flu shot usually takes up to two weeks to produce immunity, MSDH reported. “Flu shots are recommended for all those six months and older. Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is accepted for children’s flu shots.”

While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether or not individuals are vaccinated, MSDH said. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently.

Be smart when it comes to the flu: get vaccinated and protect yourself and those you love.