An unvaccinated child in Florida died from the flu, marking the first pediatric death of the 2018-2019 flu season

By Julie Mazziotta
October 17, 2018 12:07 PM
Father touching sick daughter blowing nose on bed at home
Credit: Getty

An unvaccinated child in Florida died from the flu, officials said, marking the first pediatric death of the 2018-2019 flu season in the U.S.

The Florida Department of Health announced the child’s death on Monday, but did not release their name, age, gender or location due to privacy issues; just that the child had not received a flu shot and did not have any other health issues, the New York Times reports.

The child died between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, early in the flu season. Health officials found this unusual, as there have been no outbreaks and flu season typically peaks in the coldest months.

“While rare, these deaths do occur every year, mostly in unvaccinated children with underlying health conditions,” the Florida Department of Health spokesman, Brad Dalton, told the Times. “Annual vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from influenza and its potentially severe complications.”

While experts are unsure how this season will go, the 2017-2018 flu season was the deadliest in at least four decades, with at least 80,000 deaths, the Centers for Disease Control said in September.

“Influenza seasons vary in timing, severity and length,” the Florida Department of Health said in a statement on Monday. “It is not possible to predict what the 2018-19 influenza season will be like in Florida.”

However, CDC experts believe this season will be milder nationwide.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re seeing more encouraging signs than we were early last year,” Dr. Daniel Jernigan, a CDC flu expert, said in September.

If you think you may have the flu — symptoms include fever, cough, muscle aches, chills and sometimes diarrhea or vomiting — but aren’t sure if it’s that or a cold, the best thing to do is see a doctor.

“Colds and flu can initially have a lot of the same symptoms so it can be difficult to tell them apart at first,” Dr. Travis Stork, an ER physician, host of The Doctors and a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad, previously said. “If you’re worried, it’s always best to be evaluated.”

And don’t worry about passing on handshakes or hugs to avoid infection.

“During cold and flu season, it’s not rude!” Stork told PEOPLE.