RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – A five-to-12 year old child in Virginia’s southwest region has died from complications associated with the flu, the Virginia Department of Health said Wednesday.

It is the state’s first reported influenza-associated pediatric death for the 2022-2023 flu season, VDH said. It will not be releasing further information on the child’s death to protect the family’s privacy.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family of this child,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin M. Greene said in a statement. “Flu can be a very dangerous illness. With Virginia and many other states experiencing high or very high levels of flu activity, I urge everyone who is eligible to receive the flu vaccine to do so as soon as possible, consulting your physician as needed.

“While we can never stop all cases of flu, the best way to reduce your risk is to get the vaccine, which is available to anyone over 6 months of age.”

VDH recommends the following actions to prevent the flu:

  • Everyone 6 months & older should receive a yearly flu vaccine;
  • Practice good preventive health with hand hygiene (washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer), respiratory etiquette (coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow rather than your open hand), and staying home when you feel sick; and
  • Take antivirals as prescribed by your physician if you do become sick with the flu.

The state health department said Virginia is experiencing early and very high flu activity during the current flu season, as compared to previous flu seasons.

Emergency department and urgent care center visits for flu-like illness are also very high, it said, and represent 8% of total emergency department and urgent care center visits for this time of the season compared to the same time during the past 12 seasons, except for the 2009-2010 H1N1 flu pandemic year.

Virginia reported one flu-associated death in children during the 2021-2022 season.

The flu has resulted in 6.2 million to 14 million illnesses, 53,000 to 110,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 to 8,400 deaths in the U.S. so far this flu season, from Oct. 1 through Nov. 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention preliminary in-season burden estimates.

The CDC said certain groups are at higher risk of serious illness from the flu, including children younger than 5, pregnant woman, people 65 and up and those with suppressed immune systems or certain chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease.

People can get the flu shot at a number of locations around the state, including pharmacies and health departments. For more information, contact the Call Center at 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users can call 7-1-1). Help is available in English, Spanish and more than 100 languages. Go to www.vaccines.gov to find a vaccine location.

The flu shot is widely available in Virginia at many different locations, including pharmacies and health departments. To learn more and to get help finding vaccines, contact the Call Center at 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages. Visit www.vaccines.gov to find a vaccine near you.

Learn more about influenza in Virginia by visiting the VDH Influenza page and the Influenza Dashboard.