Houston Health Department

Young boy is city’s first flu-associated pediatric death of 2019-2020 flu season


Dec. 31, 2019

HOUSTON - A boy between the ages of 6 and 10 is the city’s first flu-associated pediatric death of the 2019-2020 flu season, the Houston Health Department confirmed today. The child, who had a pre-existing health condition, died in November.

The department was unable to verify if the child received a flu shot for current influenza season.

“While there is little that can bring comfort to parents coping with the death of a child, this tragic situation serves as a reminder to all parents about the importance of flu vaccination,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “Vaccination not only protects the person receiving the vaccination, it’s important to protecting others in the community.”

For the week ending Dec. 21, 2019, 3.88% of Houston emergency room visits were for influenza-like illnesses, an increase from 3.53% the previous week.

With flu activity trending up, the health department reminds people 6-months and older to get vaccinated. Those 65 and older, pregnant women, young children and those with chronic health conditions are at higher risk for serious complications or death if they get the flu.

People can visit their doctor, neighborhood pharmacy or local health department to get a flu shot. Many grocery stores also offer the vaccine.

The Houston Health Department offers flu shots at its health centers to uninsured and underinsured people on a sliding scale that ranges from free to $15. To find the nearest health center, people can call 832-393-5427 or the City of Houston 311 Help and Info line. Health center locations and hours of operation are also available at HoustonHealth.org.

In addition to vaccination, people can help stop the spread of the flu and other illness by:

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  • Staying home if sick and at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, except to get medical care

The flu – caused by different related viruses – is a contagious disease that results in symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat and body aches. People with a combination of these symptoms need to see a medical provider promptly.

Most people recover in one to two weeks, but some develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. Flu also can make chronic medical conditions worse.

Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications that help make the illness shorter and milder. Antiviral medications work best if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Flu outbreaks can occur as early as October and last as late as May.

The Houston Health Department publishes a weekly Influenza Surveillance Report on its website during flu season. The report offers insight into local, state and national flu prevalence.