HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (KVEO) — Authorities in Hidalgo County, Texas, have confirmed that the death of a 3-year-old girl earlier this month was flu-related.
The child’s death is the first confirmed pediatric flu death in the United States for the 2022 flu season, according to CDC data updated Friday morning.
County health officials said the child died of “respiratory symptoms” after testing positive for the flu. State officials have now confirmed the child’s death was flu-related, said Hidalgo County Public Affairs Director Carlos Sanchez.
On Friday morning, the CDC announced that the first “influenza-related” death of the season had been reported this week.
Although the case is suspected to be flu-related, cases involving children must be reviewed by state health officials, a process that could take weeks, officials told ValleyCentral on Oct. 19. The girl died earlier this week.
“She tested positive for the flu, but the way it works is that every death of a child under the age of 12 has to be investigated by the state,” Sanchez said. “And the state will determine whether the flu was a contributing factor in the death or the cause of death.”
According to the CDC, 39 pediatric deaths were reported in the 2021-2022 season, but that number may be an underestimate, they said.
Impact of the flu
Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a family of influenza viruses. The disease is contagious and causes symptoms such as cough, sore throat, body aches and high fever.
According to a report by CGI Health, the Rio Grande Valley ranked as the No. 1 region for flu activity in the country last week.
Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo said the flu has been almost dormant for the past two years due to measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Now Castillo said the county is experiencing a spike in flu cases and hospitalizations. That increase isn’t limited to South Texas — there is an increase in cases across the U.S., he said.
Authorities recommend staying home when you are sick, wearing a mask and washing your hands to prevent the spread of the flu virus.
Castillo told KVEO that the flu shot is recommended for anyone over the age of 6 months, regardless of health status.
“Usually people get their flu shot now or a little later, but if someone hasn’t gotten one yet, it’s really time to do it,” Castillo said.