A teenager died Friday from complications with influenza, becoming the first pediatric death of the season in Maricopa County.
The county Department of Public Health confirmed the death. Earlier in the month, a child in Cochise County died, becoming the first pediatric death in the state.
During the week ending Jan. 15, there was a small spike in the number of lab-confirmed influenza cases in the state, with 422 cases. Since the season started in late fall, there have been 1,971 cases.
That figure represents just a small number of influenza cases since most people don’t go to see a doctor or require hospitalization. Influenza is a respiratory infection that may include symptoms such as cough, fever, body aches and fatigue.
“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in the number of flu cases. This is a pretty typical increase we see in January each year,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, a public health physician for the county.
According to the state website, a third of the patients have been ages 19 to 49 (33 percent). The next largest group has been ages 5 to 18 (24 percent), followed by the very young, newborn to 4 years old (22 percent). More than three-quarters of cases have been influenza A, which includes the H1N1 strain. H3 is the most predominant subtype of lab-confirmed influenza this year.
The number of cases is still far below that seen last year during the H1N1 pandemic, Sunenshine said.
The county believes there’s also a decrease in the number of people vaccinated this year.
“During the H1N1 pandemic, our schools really stepped up. Half of our school kids in Maricopa County were vaccinated,” many during school-based clinics, Sunenshine said. “We tried to get the schools to offer clinics this year.”
But many schools did not offer them.
“That’s unfortunate because one of the best ways to protect the community is to get school-age children vaccinated,” she said. “Based on participation and what we’re seeing, we believe a lot fewer school-age children were vaccinated this year.”
The vaccine this year includes a formula against three types of influenza, including H1N1 and a strain of H3.
Sunenshine said the flu vaccine is recommended for anyone over 6 months old, and it’s best to get it in late fall. But it’s not too late, she said. Arizona’s typical spike in flu cases is January through late February.
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