The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports the first confirmed pediatric influenza death in Mississippi for the 2021-2022 flu season. Pediatric deaths are defined as deaths of individuals under 18 years of age.
Including this reported death, there have been a total of 23 pediatric flu deaths reported in Mississippi since pediatric flu deaths became reportable in the 2008-2009 flu season.
“We recommend that all Mississippians get their flu shots every year, but especially now with COVID-19. The flu vaccination can be given at the same time – or any time before or after – the COVID-19 vaccination. There is no minimum amount of time you need to wait between these vaccinations,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.
Flu season typically peaks in January through March in Mississippi, and the flu shot usually takes up to two weeks to produce immunity.
Individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, but the agency monitors flu activity through the ILI System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. State health officials use this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.
“We are starting to see increased flu activity in Mississippi through our surveillance system. It is recommended to get vaccinated now before we reach peak flu activity. Influenza vaccination is especially important for young children, pregnant women, those over 65, and those with underlying health problems,” he said. “Flu vaccination is the best way to protect both children and adults from serious complications such as hospitalization, and in many cases, death.”
Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive a flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is accepted for children’s flu shots. A list of all VFC providers can be found at www.HealthyMS.com/vfc.
Adults who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccination at MSDH county health department clinics. Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians, pharmacies and retail centers.
While vaccination is the best protection against flu, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether or not individuals are vaccinated. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently. Wearing a face covering in public places offers additional protection against the flu.
Please call your local county health department to make an appointment for your vaccination.