An unvaccinated child in Florida has become the first death of flu season, officials say. The child, whose age and hometown has not been disclosed, died between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6 of influenza B, ABC reports. Officials say the child was otherwise healthy, with no underlying conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 80,000 Americans died during the brutal 2017-18 flu season, including 183 children who died from flu or flu-related causes, the highest number since the CDC starting keeping records on nationwide pediatric influenza deaths in 2004. Around 80% of the children who died had not received the vaccine.
Health officials recommend flu vaccines for anybody at least 6 months old. The CDC's vaccination fact sheet suggests people get vaccinated in early fall. The death of the Florida child should be a wake-up call for parents, says CBS medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula. This "is a strong clear message to parents about the importance of vaccination," she says. Despite misconceptions, she says, "this vaccine is safe. It is the most effective tool we have. And we know of the pediatric deaths last year, 80% were in kids who were unvaccinated." A recent study found that more than 50% of parents believe that the vaccine can give their child influenza, and 28% believe it can lead to autism. (Last year's vaccine was unusually ineffective, though experts said it was still far better than having no vaccine at all.)