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Fifteen children dead from the flu, CDC says

A total of 15 flu-related deaths in children have been reported in nine different states, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

And the CDC said widespread flu activity has been reported in 36 states including Missouri.

Nearly 14,500 cases of the flu have been reported in Missouri. More than half of those cases were in children.

Michael Cooperstock, M.D., with the MU Children’s Hospital said children are more likely to get the flu because they simply do not have the same level of resistance as adults.

“The younger the child, the more important it is for everyone to get immunized including family members cause you not only protect yourself, but you protect your contacts,” Dr. Cooperstock said.

Each year, the flu season usually peaks sometime in January or February. But Dr. Cooperstock said this year, November and December saw a higher number of cases when the flu season was just getting started.

In December alone, the MU Health Care System said it has had about 420 confirmed cases of the virus.

Dr. Cooperstock said each year, the school-aged kids are the source of spreading the flu to the community.

“It actually hits the school-aged kids first. And then you can see it spread to the elderly and to the young kids when the kids bring it home from school, basically.”

Officials with Columbia Public Schools said they see a larger number of students with the flu every year right after the holiday breaks.

“We have worked with the health department to provide free vaccinations as well as all of our employees,” Michelle Baumstark with Columbia Public Schools said. “So that’s something we’ve done for the last several years which has really helped mitigate some of the illnesses that we see in school.”

Dr. Cooperstock said the best way to help prevent your child from getting the virus is to get the flu shot and keep children away from anyone with the virus.

“It’s definitely not too late to get the flu shot,” Cooperstock said. “We’ve still have maybe another eight to 12 weeks to run. The flu shot takes about two weeks to kick in, so one could be protected still for the last half of the season if they got their immunization today.”

Dr. Cooperstock said aside from children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses like heart disease, lung disease or severe asthma are more prone to the flu.

The total number of U.S. child deaths from the flu averages about 100 to 150 every year, Cooperstock said.

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