The Human and Financial Effects of the Seasonal Flu Epidemic (cont.)

These numbers aren’t just statistics. They are people, and include a 38-year-old Texas second grade teacher and a six-year-old New Jersey student. Both died this year after coming down with flu. It’s unclear if such individuals, who are of lower risk factor for death from flu, had underlying medical issues.

Flu-related death is still considered rare, except for the chronically ill, infants and the elderly.  Individuals with chronic illnesses, children, adults over age 65, and pregnant women, are more at risk of hospitalization or death due to flu-related complications, which include pneumonia, heart attack and sepsis. An average of 34,000 people die annually from flu-related complications, according to CDC estimates. A total of 63 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported to CDC as we go to publication this season.

Nationally, there are no requirements for getting the influenza vaccination. Health and education professionals are taking a proactive approach, promoting hand washing, disinfecting common-area surfaces (including doorknobs), and asking parents to keep sick children home. Since 2008, child-care pre-school requirements in New Jersey include seasonal influenza vaccine for children six through 59 months of age, as per statute N.J.A.C. 8:57-4.19.  Exceptions include limited vaccine availability and religious exemptions.