Mississippi confirms first pediatric flu death
Published 10:24 am Thursday, November 16, 2023
The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) recently confirmed the first pediatric influenza death in Mississippi for the 2023-2024 flu season, highlighting a significant health concern as the state confronts the “triple threat” of flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Pediatric deaths refer to individuals under 18 years of age. Since the 2008-2009 flu season, when pediatric flu deaths became reportable, Mississippi has recorded 25 such deaths.
This year’s respiratory virus season presents unique challenges due to the co-circulation of flu, COVID-19, and RSV. According to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the current landscape differs from last year’s “tripledemic,” with advancements in vaccines and treatments, particularly a new FDA-approved antibody, nirsevimab, offering protection against RSV for young infants. The Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes that the combination of these three viruses can significantly strain healthcare systems, even in an average respiratory season.
Children are particularly susceptible to these respiratory viruses due to their developing immune systems. Vaccination remains a vital protective measure, and the MSDH encourages vaccination against flu for everyone aged 6 months and older. Dr. Kathryn Taylor, Interim State Epidemiologist, notes, “Vaccination is the best protection against flu and the severe outcomes from flu infection.”
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This year’s U.S. flu vaccines have a similar composition to those used in the Southern Hemisphere, where they have been effective in reducing hospitalizations due to the flu. Studies show that individuals vaccinated against the flu were half as likely to be hospitalized as those not vaccinated. Vaccines for all three major respiratory viruses – COVID-19, flu, and RSV – will be available this fall for the first time in U.S. history.
In addition to vaccination, basic infection control measures, such as covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying home when ill, and washing hands frequently, are crucial to reduce the spread of these viruses.