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Health Alert: First Pediatric Flu Death In Tarrant County Since 2015

Tarrant County Public Health confirms first pediatric flu death of the season

On Thursday, Dec. 5, Tarrant County Public Health confirmed the first pediatric flu death since 2015. Three other pediatric flu deaths have been reported in Texas in this current season.

“Because of the sensitive nature of the information, we can’t share any other details, other than to say that the child had underlying health conditions,” said Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja. “The patient tested positive for Influenza B which is circulating early and predominately this season.”

Tarrant County Public Health stated there has been a “sharp rise in flu activity this season, trending nearly a month ahead of the previous two years.”

Taneja added, “We want to remind everyone to get their flu shot. It’s definitely not too late, and the vaccine offers you the best protection against the flu.”

Last week at Cook Children’s (Nov. 24 through Nov. 30), 964 children were tested for the flu at the medical center. Of those children, 231 tested positive for Influenza B and 24 more for Influenza A.

“The flu vaccine is still the best form of protection we have to fight off getting sick,” said Justin Smith, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s in Trophy Club. “The vaccine is especially important for children aged 6 months to 5 years. They are at the highest risk for serious flu-related complications, including death. Even if you do get the flu, people who are vaccinated generally get a milder and less dangerous form of the illness.”

You may remember the spray shot wasn’t previously available for children because it didn’t work as well. The newer versions appear to work as well as the shot. So the vaccine can be given this year either by a shot or nasal spray, depending on the child’s age and general health. Both protect against four types of influenza viruses: Influenza A (H1N1), Influenza A (H3N2) and two influenza B viruses.

The nasal spray is approved for use in people 2 years through 49 years of age. People who are pregnant or have certain medical conditions (such as asthma) should not receive the nasal spray influenza vaccine.

Based on guidelines from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, people with egg allergies no longer need to be observed for an allergic reaction for 30 minutes after receiving a flu vaccine. It is now recommended that people with a history of severe allergic reaction to egg (any symptom other than hives) can now be vaccinated in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting, under the supervision of a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.

"All children with egg allergy of any severity can receive an influenza vaccine without any additional precautions beyond those recommended for all vaccines," the AAP wrote in the September 2018 edition of Pediatrics as part of its "Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2018-2019."

Backing up the AAP and CDC, is recent research in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, which found the flu shot to be safe and recommended its use for people who are allergic to eggs.

Jason Terk, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician in Keller, said previous recommendations on egg-allergic individuals not receiving a flu vaccine were based on the fact that most of the flu vaccine currently available is created from viral cultures in chicken embryos. Experts theorized there was a risk because of the concern that small amounts of the egg that the viral cultures come from could end up in the vaccine.

“After years of study and observation, it was found that no significant increased risk for reactions occured in egg-allergic people,” Dr. Terk said. “The recommendation to avoid flu vaccine for egg-allergic people has been removed. No medical intervention is without risk. But the risk of influenza and the complications arising from it far exceed the infinitesimal risk of influenza vaccination.”

If you have concerns, Dr. Terk said your pediatrician should be happy to answer questions about your child and why the flu vaccination should be given.

Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. It affects all age groups, though kids tend to get it more often than adults.

Influenza/Flu Information for North Texas

Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. It affects all age groups, though kids tend to get it more often than adults.

In North Texas, Flu season runs from October to May, with most cases happening between late December and early March. Click here to schedule a shot of flu prevention for your child.

More Helpful Links About The Flu

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