Doctor, school officials speak about flu outbreak after Eastern Carolina child dies

PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - The peak of flu season continues and two flu-related deaths have now been reported in the east, the latest being a child.


The Pitt County Public Health Department says the child's existing health condition, coupled with the flu, might have led to his or her death.

This is the second flu-related death in Pitt County this season, the first being in January when a person over the age of 65 died.

Runny nose, sore throat, chills, a low grade fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and dehydration are all considered flu-like symptoms.

Brody School of Medicine clinical associate professor of pediatrics, Dr. Alex Dalzell, says in the last month or so, they've seen an increase in the flu state-wide.

"Washing your hands is the biggest thing to help keeping it from spreading to person to person," he says. "The other one is what's called cough hygiene."

That means coughing into your elbow or shoulder instead of into your hand where the droplets can be more easily transmitted.

For some children, if they get the flu, it can be an increased health risk.

"If a child has a pre-existing condition, especially if it's a problem with their breathing, they are at a higher risk for getting sicker quicker if they get influenza," Dr. Dalzell says.

Pitt County Schools spokesman, Travis Lewis, says they are seeing a one-percent increase in absences compared to this time last year, and that's something school nurse, Sarah Hunt, keeps a close eye on.

"A lot of it is just supportive care," she says. "We want to make sure that anyone who looks like they have the flu is probably removed from the school environment, stays at home for a little while, gets rest.

She agrees with Dr. Dalzell that a lot of sicknesses can easily spread through the school system this time of year and with the flu, you're most contagious at the beginning.

The flu season typically runs from November to March, but can vary each year.

He also says it's not too late to get the flu shot if you haven't already, however, he does want to remind people that it generally takes 2-3 weeks to be effective. Since we're in the full swing of flu season, it might not be as beneficial as it would've been earlier on.

The Pitt County Public Health Department says there have been 22 flu-related deaths across the state of North Carolina so far this season. New numbers are due out Thursday.

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The outbreak of the flu has claimed the life of a local child.

The Pitt County Health Department says a child had an existing health condition that complicated the flu illness and might have contributed to their death.

The age of the child has not been released.

Doctors have seen a huge spike in flu cases in the past two weeks.

The death of the child in Pitt County is the second flu death for the county this season. The first death happened in January with a person over the age of 65.