RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports a child in the eastern part of North Carolina has died as a result of the flu.

It’s the first pediatric death from flu for the 2022-2023 season, officials said. A pediatric flu death was last reported in February 2020, health officials said Wednesday.

In a media release, NCDHHS officials said, “A child in the eastern part of the state recently died from complications associated with influenza infection. To protect the family’s privacy, the child’s hometown, county, age and sex are not being released.”

“We extend our deepest sympathies to this child’s family on this heartbreaking and tragic loss,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore.

Health officials report a rapid early rise in flu cases in recent weeks after two years of relatively low flu activity since the COVID-19 pandemic. At least five adult flu-related deaths have already been reported in the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one pediatric flu death had been reported from other states as of Nov. 2. 

The CDC recommends flu vaccination every year for everyone six months and older. In addition to being the best way to prevent infection with the flu, vaccination can also make illness milder for those who do get the flu.

NCDHHS also launched a campaign to inform people of the health risks associated with the seasonal flu, the benefit of annual vaccination and to encourage annual flu vaccination across the state. MySpot.nc.gov/flu has the latest resources, guidance, answers to frequently asked questions, sharable materials and a new PSA. Flu vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments. To find a flu vaccine near you, visit www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines.