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A Michigan child has died of the flu, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday.

It’s the first pediatric flu death so far in the 2017-2018 flu season. It has been worse than usual, with elevated hospitalizations and more than 50 influenza-related child deaths across the country.

The reported death involves a child from the Upper Peninsula, health officials said. The flu epidemic has resulted in some of the highest hospitalization rates recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials are strongly recommending that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. They said there is still plenty of flu vaccine available. A map of where to find the vaccine is online at flushot.healthmap.org.

“It is not too late to get vaccinated,” Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, said in a Wednesday statement. “The vaccine is your best defense against the flu and will help reduce the severity of symptoms if you catch the flu despite being vaccinated. And remember, if you or your child is sick, stay home to help protect others.”

More than three quarters of the positive influenza specimens confirmed by the state’s Bureau of Laboratories this flu season have been an H3N2 virus, according to health officials. The virus can cause severe flu infections in children, as well as in young and middle-aged adults.

Vaccine is especially important for persons at increased risk for complications from flu, including children, adults 65 and older, persons of any age with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women.

Children less than 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated, but anyone in close contact with them, including parents, siblings, grandparents, child care workers and health care personnel, need to get a flu shot.

KBouffard@detroitnews.com

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