Free flu shots offered for children, after 2 children die from flu in Florida

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – This flu season could be one of the worst on record, according to health experts at the Centers for Disease Control. Doctors are telling patients, get your flu shot now, and do not delay.

Sadly, two children have died from the flu so far in the state of Florida.

Flu-associated pediatric deaths are reported most often in unvaccinated
children with underlying health conditions, say health experts with the Hillsborough County Health Department.

Last flu season, six flu-associated pediatric deaths were reported in Florida, and all occurred in children who were not fully vaccinated. Flu vaccination has been shown to reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu by 60%.

In Tampa Bay, flu cases are now being reported earlier than usual. The peak of the flu season is normally between January and March. But, this year, according to the Hillsborough County Health Department, the Tampa Bay region has seen an increase, earlier than in previous years.

Flu-associated pediatric deaths are reported most often in unvaccinated
children with underlying health conditions.

Last season, six flu-associated pediatric deaths were reported in Florida, and all occurred in children who were not fully vaccinated. Flu vaccination has been shown to reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu by 60%.

“That’s a good number to say, you need to get your child vaccinated,” said Kevin Watler, public information officer from the Hillsborough County Health Department.

With this flu season predicted to be a dangerous one, getting a shot now could make all the difference later. Parents are heeding the warning from both the CDC and doctors.

“There have been seasons with the flu has been really wicked, and people miss a lot of work, says Tampa mom, Allison Schneider.

According to the Hillsborough County Health Department, there is some good news for those who got this season’s flu shot. The main type of flu virus we have seen circulating so far is contained in this year’s
flu vaccine.

This means those who got the flu shot this season have a higher
chance of not getting ill with the most dominant strain that is circulating.

Hillsborough health experts do warn that it’s important to also be aware there are other flu strains circulating, and there’s no way to have complete protection. But, the flu shot can reduce the severity and/or risk of getting ill.

Health experts in Hillsborough County tell 8 on Your Side the flu season will continue for several more months, so there is still time to protect yourself and your family by getting the flu shot.

Experts with the Hillsborough County Health Department released the following statement.

“The flu can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as young children, the elderly and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk for serious complications from the flu. Some children are at especially high risk for flu-related complications: children less than 5 years old, American Indian and Alaskan Native children, and children with chronic health problems.”

In Hillsborough County, there have been several outbreaks in schools throughout the county.

The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has partnered with Hillsborough County Public Schools to offer free flu shots. Any child in the county can come to one of the clinics and get a free flu shot.

The upcoming clinics will take place:

Dec. 14 at Jefferson High School, 4401 Cypress St, Tampa, FL 33607 from 9-11 a.m.

Dec. 17 at Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Rd, Riverview FL 33569 from 5-7 p.m.

Dec. 19 at Plant City High School, One Raider Place, Plant City, FL
33563 from 5-7 p.m.

Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.

In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu or flu-like illness, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading germs to others.

You can also get a vaccine at your local health department.

For more information here are the phone numbers to contact your local health department:

  • Citrus: (352) 527-0068
  • Hardee: (863) 773-4161
  • Hernando: (353) 540-6800 (Ages 17 and under only)
  • Highlands: (863) 386-6040
  • Hillsborough: (813) 307-8000
  • Manatee: (941) 748-0747
  • Pasco: (727) 619-0300
  • Pinellas: (727) 824-6900
  • Polk: (863) 519-7900
  • Sarasota: (941) 861-2900

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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