King County has first pediatric flu death in three years

Nov 23, 2022, 2:05 PM

Pediatric flu...

(Photo By Joaquin Corchero/Europa Press via Getty Images)

(Photo By Joaquin Corchero/Europa Press via Getty Images)

A child in King County has died from the flu for the first time since the 2019-2020 flu season.

The elementary school-aged child’s death is also the county’s first known overall flu death in a flu season that has taken off with an early and turbulent start.

“Since October, we have seen early and rapidly increasing flu activity locally compared to past seasons,” said Dr. Eric Chow, chief of Public Health – Seattle and King County’s Communicable Disease and Epidemiology Division, during a briefing.

Flu season wreaking havoc on kids in Washington state

Along with COVID and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), cases of the flu are filling up emergency rooms, especially when it comes to kids.

“This death comes at a time of a steep rise in respiratory viral infections, particularly among children, leading to increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations,” Chow said.

He compared the situation at pediatric hospitals to high points in the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that “it is likely that these trends will continue in the coming weeks and will continue to add to the burden faced by our health care system.”

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Most of the time, children recover at home from these respiratory illnesses and do not require hospitalization. If your child has one of these milder cases, health officials ask you not to visit the ER to save limited resources for those children with severe cases.

“[Hospitals] are a last line of defense. They have to be there to take care of people, regardless of their capacity,” Chow said. “And whatever we can do to take steps as a community to mitigate that, I think we should all be employing.”

If you are not sure if your child’s symptoms are serious enough to warrant an ER visit, Chow suggests a call or telehealth visit to their primary care physician. Symptoms to watch out for include a fever that lasts more than a few days or a fever in a baby under three months old, extreme lethargy, difficulty breathing, and dehydration.

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