First Iowa Child Dies of Flu

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — State health officials say an Iowa child has died of the flu, news that comes even as experts declare that cases of the viral infection are waning.

State health officials on Friday said the victim was the first child to die from the disease in Iowa this winter.

Officials did not reveal the child's age, gender, residence or the date of death, saying such information could disclose the child's identity and violate privacy rules.

The child was not vaccinated against the flu, said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the Iowa Department of Public Health's medical director.

"We want to remind people that while children dying of influenza is rare, it does happen," Quinlisk told the newspaper. "Thus, we recommend that all children over the age of 6 months be vaccinated with the flu vaccine."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently disclosed that this year's flu vaccine effectiveness is 56 percent, which means those who are vaccinated have a 56 percent lower chance of winding up at the doctor with the flu. That is somewhat worse than what has been seen in other years, but the CDC continues to recommend that everyone over 6 months get flu shots.

The CDC says 81 children have died from the flu in the U.S. as of Feb. 23 since this flu season began last fall. That figure does not including Iowa's death.

Among infectious diseases, flu is considered one of the nation's leading killers. On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC.

During the last week of December, 151 Iowans were hospitalized with the disease, state health officials said. That number had dropped to 28 by Feb. 23. By Friday, officials placed the state's flu status to "regional" from "widespread," although they warned the virus remains present.
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