North Carolina has reported its first child death from flu for the 2011-2012 flu season.
A 6-year old died Feb. 4 of complications from an influenza infection. State health officials would not release the child's gender or home county, but said the child was at risk for complications from the flu because of underlying medical conditions.
Each year, influenza kills an estimated 25,000 people in the United States and causes more than 220,000 hospitalizations.
"Unfortunately, this reminds us that flu is a serious illness and can be potentially devastating to people at any age," said Dr. Laura Gerald, state health director.
Flu vaccine is recommended for anyone older than 6 months and especially for people at high risk of complications, including pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, very young children and the elderly. But almost half the children who died from flu last season had no known conditions that put them at high risk.
Until now, flu activity in the Carolinas has been mild, but more infections have been detected in recent weeks.
"It is not too late to get your flu shot because flu season can last well into the spring," Gerald said.
She emphasized typical precautions: Wash your hands frequently. Cover coughs and sneezes. If you get sick, stay home. To find a flu vaccine: flu.nc.gov.