Virginia health officials announce first reported child flu death of season

RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Health on Thursday announced the first reported pediatric flu death of the 2023-2024 season.

The child was between the ages of five and 12, and lived in Virginia’s eastern region, which includes Hampton Roads, according to a news release from the department. No other information about the child’s death was provided in order to protect the family’s privacy, the release said.

“We at the Virginia Department of Health, are broken hearted and extend our sympathies to the family of this child during this difficult time,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton said in a statement. “Even though the flu is common, it can cause serious illness and even death. I urge everyone who is eligible to receive the flu vaccine to do so not only to protect themselves, but to protect those around them.”

Virginia’s 2023-24 flu season is expected to be in the usual range of severity, the release said, but even typical seasons can vary widely and result in illness, hospitalizations, and death. Virginia reported five influenza-associated deaths among children during last year’s flu season.

Only about a quarter of eligible Virginians are reported to have received the flu vaccine this season, the release said.

A recent study estimated the vaccine reduced the risk of flu-related emergency department and urgent care visits by almost half, and hospitalization by more than a third among U.S. adults during the 2022-23 season. Health department officials said now is still a good time to get a vaccine if you haven’t already.

Jane Harper,