HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Health officials in New Jersey confirm that a 4-year-old child has died from the flu, the state’s first flu-related pediatric death this season.
The girl from Central New Jersey died in December and had not received a flu vaccination, according to health officials.
At least 19 states have reported one pediatric death this flu season and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu has claimed the lives of 37 children nationwide.
In Virginia, the parents of 7-year-old Kevin Baynes Jr. took him to the emergency room on Friday. He was given medication and sent home, but the next morning, he succumbed to the virus.
“I woke up at 8 o’ clock in the morning and my daughter found him not breathing,” his mother, Samantha Baynes, said.
A major concern is how fast the flu can take hold. Dr. Michael Phillips from NYU Langone says parents need to watch for signs.
“They stop eating, if they’re not urinating as frequently or their urine is very dark, those are signs of dehydration. You should get your child to the doctor quickly,” he said. “Your child is having a difficult time eating, not playful, lethargic, difficult time breathing — those are not situations where you would want to watch him and wait. That’s one where you are calling your pediatric doctor right away.”
The influenza virus is not deadly, but can lead to pneumonia, which can kill. Now, some schools across the country have been forced to shut down as crews work to sanitize the buildings filled with germs.
“If we look at least year – of the children who died across the country, 85 percent were unimmunized, told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.
But Dr. Phillips says that may be futile because the flu virus can only live on a surface for 24-hours and there’s no way to reach every place with sanitizer.
The best way to prevent infection other than the vaccine is frequent hand washing or use of alcohol sanitizer.
“Watch your children closely,” Baynes said. “Don’t hesitate to go to the emergency room.”
Kristin Dietz, of Hoboken, told Murdock she’s convinced she just got over the flu after five days.
“Being lethargic and lack of energy,” she said.
She said she had the flu shot and so did her 2-year-old.
“He was able to fight it off within a day, though,” she said. “So luckily, I think the vaccine really worked for him.”
Her friend, Zack Solomon, did not get vaccinated.
“I just never have time,” he said.
Principal Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Health Department Jackie Cornell says it’s not too late. Significant flu activity is expected for several more weeks.
“Even if the vaccine isn’t perfect, it provides a lot of protection,” she said.
To prove her point that now is as good a time as any, Cornell got her shot in front of the press Wednesday. But why did she wait until now?
“I’m a religious flu shot getter,” she said. “However, I’m a single mom and really busy. And this year in particular, it just got away from me.”
In the US, the CDC says the vaccine has been roughly 40 percent effective.