WASHINGTON - Maryland officials have reported the state's first flu-related child death of the season.
The Maryland Department of Health would not confirmed the age or location of child, but this comes amid one of the worst flu epidemics in recent history. Health officials are holding more clinics and pharmacies are staying open late to administer flu shots.
In Northeast D.C., Safeway held a free flu shot clinic Tuesday night where they saw lines out the door. The doctor there told FOX 5 they don't normally hold clinics this late in the season because by this point, flu cases begin tapering off. This year, the epidemic is still surging. Health experts say only about 60 percent of children typically get the flu shot and only 40 percent of adults get it.
"We have heard a lot about flu season being very rampant and unfortunately the deaths and illnesses associated with it," explained Olamide Banjo, the patient care services manager at Safeway. "And so we figured the best thing to do would be to partner with our community and offer free flu shots for those who can't afford them."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu has left more than 1,500 adults and 53 children dead nationwide.
In the state of Maryland, there have so far been more than 100 adult flu deaths, and one pediatric flu death, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
Many people wonder how the flu could become deadly in otherwise healthy people.
"It's very sad to hear," explained Dr. Areo Nazari with CaryRx, an independent pharmacy and delivery service in Washington D.C. "It's a reminder that it can happen at any time to anyone. But in general, it is more likely to happen to someone with a suppressed immune system. We want to remind everyone to always seek every preventative measure possible. And that includes most importantly, the flu shot. Make sure your child is vaccinated. Make sure you are vaccinated. And if you see any signs or symptoms of the flu such as generalized pain, coughing, sneezing - anything more severe than a cold like a high-grade fever above 102 [degrees], seek health care immediately. Do not wait."
Maryland public health officials say there has been a detected increase in flu activity in the state since mid-late December and are warning the public to take measures to prevent the flu, especially by getting a flu shot.
Maryland has an Internet-based Maryland Resident Influenza Tracking Survey (MRITS), which is used to continue tracking cases of the flu and add to the Department of Health's existing flu surveillance by monitoring influenza-like illnesses among residents who might not seek medical care.