Sat. Jan 18th, 2020

First New Mexico pediatric death of 2019-2020 flu season

PORTALES (KSEL)- The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reports the death of a Roosevelt County one-year-old from influenza-related illness, becoming New Mexico’s first pediatric influenza (flu) death of the 2019-2020 season.

Since the start of the flu season in October, NMDOH has identified 52 pneumonia and influenza-related deaths. Flu is still spreading in all regions of the state, and we have not yet reached peak activity. During the first week of January, the percent of visits to outpatient medical clinics for flu-like symptoms was higher and earlier than the peak in the 2017-18 season, which at the time was the most severe season in 10 years.

Influenza hospitalization rates are also higher than expected for this time of year, especially in children 0-4 years old. The rate of hospitalization for flu in New Mexico is more than double the national rate in this age group.

This flu season, while expected to continue for several more months, is already unusual for how early in the season influenza became widespread. While multiple strains of influenza virus are circulating nationally, the dominant strains are B Victoria, a type which normally does not predominate until springtime in a typical season, and A(H1N1). Cases associated with these strains may peak at different times.

“Fortunately, this seasonal flu vaccine covers multiple strains, including the ones currently circulating, and it is not too late to get vaccinated,” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from influenza and given the fact that this season hasn’t peaked yet, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.”