A 2-year-old boy from Lancaster County has died from influenza.
The death was the state's second flu-related one this season, officials said. The first was a man in his 60s, also from Lancaster County.
The child, a boy, had no underlying health conditions, said Dr. Joann Schaefer, the state's chief medical officer.
Most children and adults recover from the flu, Schaefer said, but the child's death is a sad reminder of how serious influenza can be. “It's just tragic. Our heart goes out to the family. It's just very sad.”
Judy Halstead, health director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, said the first flu-related death occurred in December and the second occurred this month. Neither person had been immunized against the flu, she said.
Children can be more susceptible to flu complications than adults. Schaefer said deaths of children have been extremely rare in Nebraska.
Nationally, 18 children have died from influenza this season, Nebraska officials said, quoting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Iowa does not monitor influenza deaths as they occur in the flu season, said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Complications can include pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections, the CDC said.
The CDC recommends flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. Halstead and Schaefer both said it's not too late to be vaccinated. Halstead said it takes a couple of weeks to build up immunity to the virus.
“I don't want parents out there to panic,” Schaefer said, “but I do want them to take steps ... if they haven't already.”
While the flu can make anyone sick, state officials said, certain people are at greater risk for serious complications, including children under 5 years old; the elderly; pregnant women; people with chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease and neurologic conditions; and those with certain other long-term health conditions.
Seven Nebraskans died from influenza in 2011-12, Schaefer said. In 2010-11, 19 died. None in those years was a child, she said.
Flu activity continues to be widespread across Nebraska and Iowa. Surveillance data shows much more flu circulating now than at this time last year.
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