MN records first pediatric flu-related death of the season

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Health officials have confirmed the state's first pediatric influenza-related death this season.

That's according to the latest flu figures released by the Minnesota Department of Health Thursday for the week ending March 5.

Health officials will not release the age of the child because of privacy reasons.

The flu, which started off slow this year, became widespread at the end of February – and the number of cases has been growing in recent weeks.

In the week ending March 5, there were 112 flu-related hospitalizations, compared to 135 the week before. So far this season, 539 people have been hospitalized with flu-related symptoms.

In the 2014-15 flu season, 10 children died from an influenza-related illness and 4,153 people were hospitalized with the flu, statistics show. It was one of the worst flu seasons Minnesota had seen in years, due in part to the flu shot being only 23 percent effective – it wasn't well-matched to the strain of flu virus that was going around, so many people who got the shot still got sick.

Flu vaccine is 60 percent effective

Health officials believe this year's flu season will be more mild than previous years, due in part to the flu season's late start and because this year's vaccine was found to be 60 percent effective, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention news release says.

"This means that getting a flu vaccine this season reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor because of flu by nearly 60 percent,” Joseph Bresee, M.D., chief of CDC’s Epidemiology and Prevention Branch said in the release. "It’s good news and underscores the importance and the benefit of both annual and ongoing vaccination efforts this season."

Here's the effectiveness for some of the most common strains of the virus:

  • 51 percent effective against H1N1 (the virus that's responsible for most flu illnesses this season, the CDC says).
  • 76 percent effective against all influenza B viruses.
  • 79 percent effective against the B/Yamagata line of B viruses.

Those are among the three most common flu strains that have required hospitalizations in Minnesota so far this season (see graph below).

For more on this year's flu season, visit the Minnesota Department of Health's website here, or check out the CDC's website, which provides information on the flu nationwide.

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