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NM reports first child death of the flu season

A health care provider prepares an immunization shot for a patient during flu season.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state Department of Health on Thursday reported the death of a year-old Roosevelt County child from influenza-related illness.

The boy is New Mexico’s first pediatric influenza death of the 2019-20 season, which already has registered 52 pneumonia- and influenza-related deaths since October, officials said in a news release.

“(The) seasonal flu vaccine covers multiple strains, including the ones currently circulating, and it is not too late to get vaccinated,” Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said in a statement. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from influenza and, given the fact that this season hasn’t peaked yet, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.”

Flu is still spreading in all regions of the state.

Also, the head of New Mexico’s largest Catholic diocese has issued directives aimed at protecting parishioners during flu season.

Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester is urging people not to shake hands or hug when they attend Mass. Parishioners also are being asked not to hold hands while reciting the Our Father and that those who are ill should stay home to avoid spreading the virus.

Priests and other church officials are also being asked to wash their hands before and after distributing communion.

During the first week of January, the percentage of visits to outpatient medical clinics for flu-like symptoms was higher and earlier than the peak in the 2017-18 season, which was the most severe season in 10 years, health officials said.

Flu hospitalization rates are also higher than expected for this time of year, especially in children through age 4, and the rate of hospitalization is more than double the national rate in the age group.

Multiple strains of influenza virus are circulating nationally, with the dominant strains being B Victoria, a type that normally does not predominate until springtime in a typical season,

To find out more about flu vaccination clinics throughout New Mexico, go to HealthMap Vaccine Finder at vaccinefinder.org or to the NMDOH website, nmhealth.org, and go to “Immunization Program” and then “Influenza Vaccinations.”

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