Public Health is reporting the first pediatric flu death of this flu season. It’s an important time to get the seasonal flu vaccine and updated COVID-19 booster and help prevent further spread of illness by staying home when sick.
Public Health has learned that a child in King County has died from complications of flu. The elementary-school-aged child passed away on November 13, 2022. This is the first reported flu death this season in King County, and the first reported pediatric flu death in Washington state this season. This is the first pediatric flu death in King County since the 2019-2020 season. Since October, we have seen early, and rapidly increasing flu activity locally compared to past seasons.
This death comes on top of a steep and unprecedented rise in illnesses and hospitalizations in King County and nationally among children for infections caused by multiple respiratory viruses. Hospitals are reporting they are overcapacity with the high levels of pediatric respiratory viruses circulating. It is likely these trends will continue in the coming weeks.
It's tragic to lose a child to illness, and our hearts go out to this child's family and loved ones," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. "Flu hits young children especially hard, as well as people of any age with underlying medical conditions, pregnant people, and people over 65 years. Because flu activity typically remains elevated for several months, now is a good time for children and adults to get an annual flu vaccine if not already vaccinated, and to take steps to protect those who may be at higher risk, including staying away from others when we are ill."
How to help prevent illness and protect those who are most vulnerable
- Get your flu shot and updated COVID-19 booster now. There's no vaccination against RSV. However, getting vaccinated for other respiratory viruses – COVID-19 and the flu -- will help keep you safer and help protect our fragile healthcare system. It is safe to get both flu and COVID vaccines at the same time if the individual is due for them.
- Flu shot: Everyone ages 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year. Information about flu shot clinics. Information in Spanish.
- COVID booster: Everyone ages 5+ who's gotten a COVID-19 shot (booster or primary series) at least 2 months ago is eligible and should get the updated booster. So, even if you got a COVID-19 booster before, you should still get this updated booster. Information about where to get a free COVID-19 booster.
- Wash hands regularly.
- Wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when in indoor public spaces.
- If you're sick – even if you test negative for COVID-19 – stay home. This is particularly important if you're going to be around young children, older adults, pregnant people, or people who have underlying medical conditions.
Recommendations for families with young children and pregnant people
Pregnant people should vaccinate: Pregnant people are at high risk for severe illness and complications of pregnancy from both flu and COVID-19. We highly recommend that pregnant people get their flu shot and updated COVID-19 booster now, if not already vaccinated. This is important to protect both the pregnant person the baby because antibodies will transfer from parent to baby.
Limit contacts with infants and vaccinate family around them: Given the high level of respiratory viruses circulating, consider limiting the number of people that infants are in contact with, and people who are ill should stay away from newborns and infants. Make sure that everyone in the family who can be vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 are up-to-date on these vaccines. This helps to create protection for infants that are not able to be vaccinated.
Public Health response
Public Health – Seattle & King County is working with the community to help reduce new infections, and supporting the health care system in managing and reducing the impact of this surge in infections.
Schools, daycares, and the broader community are receiving information from Public Health to encourage vaccination and prevention steps.
Public Health has also issued health advisories to King County healthcare providers, encouraging them to take steps to reduce the burden on overwhelmed hospitals. This includes:
- sharing prevention messages to distribute to their patients
- encouraging extended telehealth services and phone triage and clinical hours where possible
- encouraging providers to offer COVID-19 and flu vaccinations for patients who are not up-to-date
- giving medications as early as possible after symptom onset when appropriate to reduce severe illnesses
- promoting continued universal masking in all healthcare facilities