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Unvaccinated child dies from flu in Florida

While the child's name, age, gender or location wasn't released, the Florida Department of Health said the child hadn't received a flu shot.
Image: An influenza vaccination is prepared for a patient at the CVS Pharmacy store's MinuteClinic in Miami, Florida
An influenza vaccination is prepared for a patient this month at the CVS Pharmacy store's MinuteClinic in Miami.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A child in Florida has died from the flu, marking the first reported pediatric death of the 2018-19 flu season, according to the Florida Department of Health.

While the department did not release the child's name, age, gender or location, it said the child had not been vaccinated before contracting the flu.

The child died between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, according to the department.

Although the exact timing of flu season can vary, it typically begins around October and peters off around May. While the last season was particularly brutal across the United States, the flu virus is unpredictable and the current season could be very different, according to experts.

The 2017-18 season was responsible for the deaths of approximately 80,000 people, including 180 children, according to the CDC.

The number of flu deaths in adults is estimated because of the volume of cases, and while deaths in children are reported to departments of health, they are not always precise because influenza is not always being listed as the primary cause of death.

The surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said most of the children reported to have died from the flu last year had not been vaccinated.

In Florida alone last flu season, it was determined that nearly 9,000 adults died from pneumonia and influenza and eight influenza-related pediatric deaths were reported, according to the state's Department of Health. None of the children who died in the state had received flu vaccinations.

And the rate of children receiving vaccines appeared to fall nationwide last season from previous seasons, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

During the 2015-16 season, approximately 59.3 percent of children between 6 months old and 17 years old were vaccinated against the flu, the foundation reported. Last season, 57.9 percent of children in the same age range were vaccinated.

Researchers are working to make a more effective flu vaccine. Last year’s vaccine only reduced the risk of catching flu by about 40 percent, but the CDC said it greatly reduced the risk of becoming very ill or dying from flu. The hope is to eventually get a vaccine that reduces infections by 90 percent or more, but that’s years away.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no matter how effective the vaccine, everyone should still be vaccinated.

"It is the best way to protect from getting illness from having to see the doctor, from being hospitalized, and, in kids, it prevents death," said Dr. Dan Jernigan, CDC influenza division director.