AUSTIN (KXAN) — Six children have died in Texas of “flu-related causes” since flu season began at the end of September this year, the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed Friday.
The youngest child who died was one. The oldest was 16. Health officials say four were not vaccinated for the current season and they are still gathering information about the other two deaths.
Between October 2018 and September 2019, 17 children died as a result of the flu — including seven in January alone — according to Texas Influenza Surveillance Reports.
“We’re seeing high levels of flu activity across Texas right now,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS Commissioner. “Young children are one of the groups known to be at high risk of hospitalization or death from complications of the flu. Getting your flu shot is one of the best ways to protect them and everyone else in the community.”
DSHS recommends everyone over six months old “get vaccinated now to prevent flu and its potentially devastating effects.” It says those with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children and older adults especially should get the shot because they are at higher risk for complications if they come down with the flu.
“Caregivers should get the flu shot to protect themselves and to prevent spreading the flu to the vulnerable people they care for in their families and communities,” it said in a release.
Flu symptoms can include fever, body aches, chills, coughing, sore threat, runny nose, headaches and fatigue. People can be contagious from one day before they show symptoms to up to a week afterward.
Early last week Austin Public Health said it was expecting a “severe wave of flu illnesses” if people do not get vaccinated this year. People with insurance can go to VaccineFinder.org to find the nearest location to get a shot, while Austin Public Health has an immunization program for uninsured children and adults and provides about 45,000 vaccinations each year. People can call the appointment line at 512-972-5520 to get one.