A girl from Middlesex County has died from the flu, the third such pediatric death in Massachusetts this season, state authorities confirmed on Tuesday.
The death was reported to the state Department of Public Health on Tuesday.
The child’s identity, age, and hometown were not immediately released.
Earlier this year, authorities confirmed a 4-year-old child from Framingham and 12-year-old Aaron Zenus, a middle school student from Milford, both died from the flu.
“These deaths are tragic and are a reminder of the dangers of flu and the importance of flu vaccination, our best protection against illness,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, a director specializing in epidemiology and immunization at a state infectious disease bureau, in a statement. “The Department of Public Health urges people to get vaccinated, to wash their hands, cover their cough and sneeze and stay home when sick to limit the spread of disease.”
Last year, there was one flu-associated pediatric death in the state, Massachusetts public health officials said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths related to flu complications in the United States annually. The state, using federal calculations, estimates between 250 and 1,100 Massachusetts residents die each year from flu complications.
During last year’s flu season, 185 children died from the flu, as reported nationwide to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the state, reports of flu-like illnesses and flu-related hospitalizations have “both leveled off in the last few weeks.” Peak flu activity, officials say, typically lasts through March.
State public health officials said on Tuesday there is evidence that shows this year’s flu vaccine “appears to be effective and there is no shortage of available vaccine.”
This year’s flu season in Massachusetts through January has “mirrored last year’s in that activity has been widespread and severe,” according to the state’s Department of Public Health.
The flu can have very serious complications, including inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues and multiple organ failure. With the flu, an infection of the respiratory tract can lead to sepsis, according to the CDC.
Dr. David Hooper, chief of infection control at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that hospital was not seeing an uptick in pediatric flu cases and noted that this flu season has been overall less severe than last year for both children and adults.
The flu vaccine has so far proven to be more effective for juveniles than adults, he said.
“It’s still the best thing we can do to prevent the flu,” he said Tuesday night.
According to the CDC, vaccine effectiveness can vary, but studies show that flu vaccination reduces “the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.”
“If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, it’s not too late, you should do it,” said Hooper.