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Home News First Flu-Related Deaths of the Season
Kenny Vigil
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First Flu-Related Deaths of the Season

January 9, 2015 - Influenza Surveillance - Alert

The New Mexico Department of Health reported today that it has confirmed the state’s first flu-related deaths for the 2014-2015 influenza season. The five deaths were of a 29 year-old man from Curry County, a 79 year-old woman from Sandoval County, an 86 year-old woman and 81 year-old woman, both from Bernalillo County, and a 92 year-old woman from Los Alamos County. The Department is also reporting an increase in flu activity throughout the state.

“We recommend that everyone six months and older get vaccinated against the flu. It’s still not too late to get vaccinated,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “It’s also important for people who might have the flu, and especially those at high risk for complications, to talk to a medical provider about getting treated with an antiviral medication. Treatment with a flu antiviral can make flu symptoms milder and shorter and reduce the risk of complications that can result in hospitalization or death.”

The flu is a highly transmittable disease. Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

The predominant flu strain this year has been influenza A(H3N2), which has been associated with more severe illness and death compared with flu seasons where other strains have been predominant, especially in young children and people greater than 65 years of age.

Even though this season’s vaccine may not work as well against the A(H3N2) viruses, influenza vaccination still offers the best way to prevent seasonal flu. The second line of defense for those who might get flu, even if they were vaccinated, is treatment with antiviral medications. Antivirals work best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still be beneficial when started later during illness. Antiviral drugs are especially important during flu seasons when the circulating strains of flu viruses are different from the vaccine viruses, such as what has been seen so far this flu season.

The Department of Health recommends that everyone six months and older get vaccinated against flu, especially individuals in the following high-risk categories, and their close contacts. Those include:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • Pregnant women (any trimester) and up to 2 weeks postpartum
  • Adults 65 and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, lung or heart disease, and those who are immunocompromised
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives
  • People who are morbidly obese
  • Healthcare and early childhood personnel

To get a flu vaccine, contact your medical provider or pharmacist. The Department of Health offers flu vaccinations for people without insurance or who are otherwise not able to get immunized.

The Department of Health monitors influenza activity through a variety of surveillance methods aimed at finding out when and where influenza activity is occurring, what viruses are circulating, and the severity of disease during the flu season. The Department has seen an increase in flu activity statewide in the past few weeks.

During the 2013 – 2014 flu season, the New Mexico Department of Health identified 242 pneumonia and influenza-related deaths, including one child.

For more information please visit the Immunization section of our website.

Media Contact

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