Kalamazoo County child is first pediatric flu death this season, state says

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Michigan health officials on Friday announced the first child death in the state from influenza in the current flu season.

The Kalamazoo County resident contracted Influenza A/H3, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

"Nearly all of the positive influenza specimens confirmed by MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories this flu season have been Influenza A/H3 virus," the department said. "This virus can cause severe flu infections in children, as well as in adults."

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reported three flu-related pediatric deaths this week, and 19 so far this season.

There were 3,170 patients hospitalized with the flu this week, and "influenza activity increased nationally," the CDC said. "Influenza activity is highest in the central and south-central regions of the country and is increasing in most regions."

The CDC estimates there have been at least 4.3 million confirmed illnesses, 42,000 hospitalizations and 2,500 deaths from flu. Influenza A(H3N2) viruses have been the most frequently detected, according to the website. 

The Michigan health department said flu cases are rising across the state, "which is not typical for this time of the year."

The increases come as the state's flu vaccination rate stands at 32%, the department reported Friday. State immunization registry data also shows flu vaccine coverage among children ages six months through 17 years is 5.8% for the 2021-22 season, more than 5.4% lower than compared to 2020-21.

“Flu vaccine is a recommended childhood vaccine, and it is important to ensure that children are up to date with all of their vaccines,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for MDHHS.

“Once children reach six months of age it is recommended they receive two doses of the flu vaccine for their first series. In addition, pregnant women should get the flu vaccine during each pregnancy. Flu vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine.”