(WFXR) – On Wednesday morning, the Virginia Department of Health reported the commonwealth’s first influenza-related pediatric death for the 2021-2022 flu season.

According to the VDH, a child under the age of five in central Virginia died from complications associated with the flu.

“This tragic death reminds us that flu can be a very serious disease, especially in the very young, the elderly, and those with chronic medical problems,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin M. Greene. “While we can never stop all cases of flu, the best way to reduce your risk, for people over 6 months of age, is to receive the flu vaccine, an updated version of which should come available in the next 60 days.”

Virginia health officials say they observed low to moderate flu activity during the 2021-2022 flu season compared to any previous normal flu season.

In addition, the VDH has investigated a total of 23 flu outbreaks from early October 2021 through July, along with reports of 6,321 pneumonia, influenza, and/or COVID-19 associated deaths.

The department says Virginia reports an average of three flu-related pediatric deaths each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that influenza has resulted in 8-13 million illnesses, 82,000-170,000 hospitalizations and 5,000-14,000 deaths in the U.S. so far this flu season. Certain groups are at higher risk for serious illness from flu, including children younger than 5, pregnant women, people aged 65 and older, and those with suppressed immune systems or certain chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease.

Flu activity in Virginia typically peaks between December and February, but can remain elevated into the spring. However, this flu season VDH observed widespread flu activity even in June.

Statement released on Aug. 3, 2022 by the Virginia Department of Health

If you want to find a seasonal flu vaccine near you, you can visit the VDH’s website or contact your local health department.

Health officials also encourage you to take the following three actions to protect yourself against the flu.

  • Get vaccinated every year
  • Practice good public health with hand hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; respiratory etiquette, like coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow rather than your open hand; and staying home when you feel sick
  • Take antivirals as prescribed by your physician if you do catch the flu.

For more information on flu in Virginia, follow this link.