Pinal County recently recorded this season’s first pediatric influenza death in Arizona. This heartbreaking news is a reminder that children younger than 5 who get influenza are among those at increased risk of complications including pneumonia, worsening of chronic conditions, encephalopathy, and sinus and ear infections.
Quite simply, influenza is an unpredictable virus that can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu season usually peaks in Arizona between January and March. However, this year we are seeing an early start to the flu season with cases rising quickly both within Arizona and across the US. In an average year, between 5% and 20% of Arizonans get an influenza viral infection, and many will seek medical care.
Unfortunately, each flu season Arizona has a number of children die from influenza. We had three such tragedies during the 2021-2022 flu season.
Older individuals and those with weakened immune systems also are at greater risk of severe illness.
Influenza and COVID-19 vaccination, which is available to those 6 months and older, is the best protection against flu complications. I encourage everyone eligible to find a vaccine provider at vaccines.gov and make sure you have this protection against severe illness.
Along with RSV and COVID-19, influenza cases have been rising in Arizona. Keeping hands washed, staying home when sick, and maintaining physical distance from people who are sick in your home are among steps we all can take to reduce the spread of each of these viral illnesses.