Media Contact: David Morgan
Media & Social Media Manager, NMDOH
January 9, 2020
Department of Health Reports First Child Death of Flu Season
SANTA FE – The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) today reports the death of a one-year-old Roosevelt County resident from influenza-related illness, the boy is 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.”
Reducing the spread of flu takes a community effort. The Department of Health recommends everyone six months of age and older get flu vaccine each flu season. It is especially important for the following groups of people, either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications, or because they live with or care for people at high risk for complications:
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
(Children aged 6 months through 8 years who have never been vaccinated against influenza, or have an unknown vaccination history, should receive two doses of influenza vaccine, administered at least 4 weeks apart.)
- Pregnant women (all trimesters), and up to two weeks post-partum
- People ages 50 years and older
- People of any age with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, lung or heart disease, and those who are immunocompromised
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including healthcare personnel and caregivers of babies younger than six months
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- People who are morbidly obese
In addition to getting vaccinated, NMDOH also recommends the following to help prevent catching or spreading influenza:
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after contact with other people and before eating
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve
- Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer after blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing, even if you use a tissue
- Stay home if you have fever and/or respiratory symptoms
- Ask your doctor about antiviral medicines if you seek medical care for flu. These medicines are most effective if given within two days of your symptoms starting, but may still help even after two days
Even if you’ve already had the flu this season, getting a flu shot can still help prevent getting sick again with another strain. Check with your health care provider about flu vaccines. To find out more about flu vaccination clinics throughout New Mexico, you can go to HealthMap Vaccine Finder at https://vaccinefinder.org/
or go to the NMDOH website: https://nmhealth.org/about/phd/idb/imp/fluv/
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