Correction: Information obtained from Texas health officials indicates the Rio Grande Valley girl whose death is attributed to the flu was not the first to flu-related death of the 2022-2023 flu season. The Valley child was the second confirmed death in Texas.
HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Hidalgo County officials have confirmed to ValleyCentral that a 3-year-old girl’s death earlier this month was flu-related.
The CDC on Friday morning updated its pediatric flu death data to reflect that one child had died due to flu this season in the United States. Based on that data, ValleyCentral initially reported that death came from the Rio Grande Valley, but Texas the Department State Health Services later said the Hidalgo County girl was the second death in Texas.
“Apparently, the CDC has not added the second fatality in their reporting,” an email from Texas DSHS stated.
However, the Rio Grande Valley child’s death among the first confirmed pediatric flu death in the United States for the 2022 flu season.
“The case was identified as a 3-year-old female in Health Region 11 with no underlying health conditions,” state health officials wrote in the Oct. 21 Texas Influenza Surveillance Report. “Influenza A was confirmed by commercial rapid test and Influenza A (H3) was also confirmed by RT-PCR. The child was not vaccinated for the current season but had been vaccinated in prior seasons.”
Texas’ Health Region 11 includes the Rio Grande Valley.
Hidalgo County health officials had said the child died of “respiratory symptoms” after testing positive for the flu. State officials on Friday confirmed the child’s death was flu-related, Hidalgo County Public Affairs Division Director Carlos Sanchez told ValleyCentral.
Another Texas child previously died from Texas Health Region 7, which is headquartered in Temple, Texas, according to Texas health officials.
“The case was identified as a 4-year-old female in Health Region 7 with no underlying health conditions,” an Oct. 14 Texas Influenza Surveillance Report stated. “Influenza A (H3) was confirmed by PCR. It is unknown if the child was vaccinated for influenza.
Friday morning, the CDC announced the first “infuenza-associated” death of the season was reported this week.
Although the case was suspected to have been flu-related, cases involving children must be verified by state health officials, a process that can take weeks, officials had told ValleyCentral on Oct. 19. The girl had passed away earlier in that week.
“She tested positive for the flu, but the way it works is any death of a child under the age of 12 has to be investigated by the state,” Sanchez said. “And the state will determine whether the flu was a contributing factor to the death or the cause of the death.”
According to the CDC, there were 39 pediatric deaths reported in the 2021-2022 season, but that number may be under-estimated, they said.
Impact of the flu
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by a family of influenza viruses. The illness is contagious and causes symptoms including cough, sore throat, body aches and fever.
According to a report by CGI Health, the Rio Grande Valley was ranked as the No. 1 region in flu activity in the country last week.
ValleyCentral spoke with Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo, who said the flu was nearly dormant for the past two years due to measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Now, Castillo said the county is experiencing an uptick in flu cases and hospitalizations. This increase isn’t limited to South Texas — with a rise in cases happening across the U.S., he said.
Officials recommend staying home when you are sick, wearing a mask and washing your hands to prevent the spread of the influenza virus.
Castillo told ValleyCentral that the the flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, regardless of one’s state of health.
“Normally people get their flu vaccine about now or a little bit later, but if somebody hasn’t gotten it yet, it’s really time to do it,” Castillo said.