Officials urge people to give children flu vaccine

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A child in Milwaukee died from the flu, marking the first pediatric flu-related death in Wisconsin this season.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said there have been 13 deaths and 680 hospitalizations in the state so far.

Children are especially at risk because their immune systems are less developed than adults. They are also more likely to be hospitalized with breathing problems and have other complications like pneumonia.

Officials said the best way to prevent the flu is to vaccinate children. This year, the vaccine has been very effective.

"The flu vaccine is about 61 percent effective in preventing influenza this year, which means that for every three kids that get the vaccine, for two of them, it will be protective, said Sara Kreckman, a pediatrician with SSM Health Dean in Madison.

Kreckman said the vaccine is also very safe to use.

"Sometimes parents think that the vaccine can cause influenza or that their children always get sick after receiving the vaccine, but that's not true, that can't happen. It's a very safe vaccine," she said.

The 2018-2019 flu season has been less severe than last year, but health officials say it is important to take precautions.

"You're protecting your son and daughter from getting one of the more serious diseases that can actually lead to mortality," said Thomas Haput, influenza surveillance coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Parents should watch their children for symptoms like a high fever, coughing and muscle aches. If they think their child may have the flu, they should call their doctor.

Officials also urge parents to keep children home when sick. If not, children can spread the flu to even more people.

Kreckman said children should not go back to school until they have been free of a fever for at least 24 hours.