CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health says a child has died in connection to the flu.

Out of respect for and protection of the family’s privacy, the details surrounding the death, including the child’s name, age, gender, hometown or county will not be released.

While influenza-related deaths among adults are not required to be reported, the DHHR says any deaths associated with influenza among those 18 years of age or younger are required to be reported to their local health department within one week. The health department will then report the death to the state.

Health officials say this is the first pediatric flu-related death in West Virginia of the 2021-2022 flu season, and the last pediatric flu-death in the state was reported during the 2019-2020 flu season. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 16 pediatric flu-related deaths have been reported across the U.S. for the 2021-2022 flu season.

“This tragedy is a solemn reminder of the importance of flu vaccination, the most effective protection against the illness,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “While young people with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems are at increased risk for serious complications, about 40% of children who die from influenza every year have no preexisting conditions.”

Amjad and the Bureau for Public Health are urging all West Virginians 6-months-old and up to get vaccinated against the flu, especially those who are most susceptible to the virus and its complications. This includes children under the age of 5, the elderly, and people who have underlying health conditions.

Health officials did not disclose if the child who died had received a flu vaccine this year.

Because infants under 6 months old are not able to receive a flu vaccine, health officials urge that the best way to protect them is for those around them to receive the vaccine and to limit infants’ contact with large groups of people.

Other precautions to prevent spreading the flu and other viruses include staying home when you feel sick until you have been free of a fever for at least 24 hours, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water.

People who think they may have contracted the flu should immediately contact their doctor to see if they need to be treated with a prescription antiviral drug.