A Toddler Died From The Flu In California, & Doctors Are Urging People To Get Vaccinated

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There is nothing more exciting for children then when the weather gets colder, which means the holiday season (and time off from school) is basically here. But for parents, the colder weather means a lot more than just that — it means the start (and height) of flu season. Year after year doctors say getting the flu shot is vital for any parent and their child, and rates of the flu among the vaccinated support that medical advice. But the flu shot is especially vital now, since a toddler died from the flu in California, proving that the flu is much more threatening to certain vulnerable groups than many people think.

Last week, a toddler living in Orange County, California became the first person in that area to die from the flu after becoming infected with Influenza A, according to CBS Los Angeles. The most tragic thing is, this little boy's death could have been prevented. According to the Orange County Register, the boy was healthy before being infected with the flu and had not been vaccinated against the flu this season. Dr. Eric Handler, Orange County Health Officer, said in a statement according to the Orange County Register:

This is an important reminder that influenza can cause serious illness, particularly in the very young. Everyone over six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu.

But the sad reality is, the young boy's death from the flu won't be the last in the state of California this year, and unfortunately wasn't the first in the nation this year. The boy has become the third person in California to die from the flu, according to NBC San Diego. And in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report, three people have already died from the flu this year. Something that all of these cases had in common? The people who died were not vaccinated against the flu.

The flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, takes place in the fall and winter months, hitting a peak in December and February. That's part of why experts advise people to get vaccinated before the flu begins spreading in your community (for example, getting your flu shot in September or October would make it more effective) because it takes two weeks for the antibodies in the flu shot to kick in, according to the CDC.

Contrary to prior advisories, the CDC is also recommending that everyone gets the flu shot through an injection and not through a nasal spray due to the fact that research found that the nasal spray was not effective in protecting against the flu. Some children might even need two doses of the flu shot, according to Mayo Clinic, depending on their age and if they have gotten the flu shot before.

Doctors advise everyone, including women who are pregnant, receive the flu shot, however, they note under the age of 6 months should not get the flu shot. Dr. Michael Chang, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, told NBC News that while some people might be wary of the flu shot, year after year, it serves one very big purpose: to reduce the amount of people who are hospitalized because of flu-related sickness. Chang said:

At its most effective, the flu shot would prevent you from getting the flu, but when you look at studies, the purpose of the vaccine is to reduce the number of severe flu illnesses that require going to the hospital. In other words, if you get the flu vaccine, the real goal is even if you do get the flu, that you are not as sick as you would be if you had not gotten the vaccine.

There really is no reason to be so skeptical about the flu shot, according to NBC News. "A lot of times people will say they or their children got the flu from the vaccine and that is just not possible," Chang told NBC News.

Getting access to the flu shot shouldn't be difficult. Not only can you and your child get the flu shot from your family doctor, but most grocery store and drug store pharmacies are now administering the flu shot (including Target, which will give you a $5 gift card just for getting the shot). This helpful tool from the CDC can help you find the closest place to get the flu shot near you. Many local health departments are also offering free flu shots while supplies last.

The most important thing to remember this flu season is that the flu — and severe flu-related symptoms — can be prevented by the flu shot. There is no excuse not to get it, especially when not receiving the shot can have such tragic consequences.