The death is the first flu-related death reported in the state this flu season; however, South Carolina health officials have announced that there have been three flu-related deaths to children in that state.
"According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), flu and its complications are the sixth leading cause of death nationally among children four and younger," said State Health Director Dr. Leah Devlin. "Every year North Carolina averages more than a thousand deaths as a result of the flu and pneumonia; about 15 of them are children.
"This year, we have immunized 153,000. The local health departments, private providers and the public have responded well to our calls for immunization," she added.
Devlin said that high-risk individuals should seek flu shots. That includes children six months to 23 months of age, adults over 65, all people with chronic conditions, and pregnant women in their second and third trimesters.
"We are working to get more vaccine for young children and high-risk children," she said. "Most healthy people between the ages of five and 49 should be immunized by nasal mist, and there is still a good supply of that new medicine."
According to state health officials, the department is being inundated with calls on "pure factual information on the flu."
Regarding this, Devlin said there are some simple ways to prevent the spread of the disease.
"Wash your hands often. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. If you are showing flu symptoms, stay home," she said.
Devlin said the state is working to get more vaccine for children who receive it free through the Universal Childhood Vaccine Distribution Program. These include all children from six to 23 months of age and high-risk children under the age of 18 years and their close contacts.
She also pointed out that healthy people between the ages of five and 49 can take the nasal mist, which is still in good supply.
Patient confidentiality issues prevent the release of much information regarding the death of the Montgomery County child. However, records indicate the child was admitted to the hospital at 2 p.m. on Saturday and died later that night.
Initial indications are that the child was not considered at high risk.
Bladen County Health Director Myra Johnson reiterated what she said earlier in the week-that her department is working to get a supply of vaccine. The department ran out of vaccine late last week. Because of a national shortage of the vaccine, she said supplies would likely remain limited for the remainder of the year.
The department received 50 additional shots on Wednesday; however, the shots had been given by Thursday at noon.
"We only have about 45 doses available now-which is only available to high-risk children," she added.
(Johnson pointed out that she was not including the doses dedicated to high risk children when stating that the department had run out of vaccine.)
"The indications are that we will not be receiving any more vaccine," she said. "We do not have any of the nasal mist on hand."
Johnson said the cost of the nasal mist is so high and the fact that it cannot be used with the high-risk population resulted in the Health Board electing not to purchase this type of vaccine.
Johnson reiterated the importance of flu shots to individuals at risk, particularly children at high risk.
She pointed out that this year's strain of the virus had hit children particularly hard and could pose even greater problems if the trend continues in the spread of the disease.
Johnson said that flu symptoms generally start very quickly and may include fever, severe headache, body aches, sore throat and cough. It can also make individuals more susceptible to pneumonia, an illness that puts a severe strain on the heart and lungs. It is especially dangerous to individuals who have suffered or suffer from heart and lung disease.
She emphasized the importance of individuals who are experiencing symptoms of the disease to drink plenty of fluids and do everything possible to keep from exposing others to the virus, which can spread easily.
"They should also seek prompt medical attention," she said.
She cautioned against the use of aspirin-based products, particularly with children, to relieve the symptoms of the disease because of there association with Reye's Syndrome.