'A wake-up call to everybody:' Unvaccinated child dies from flu in Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE -- A child has died from the flu in Wisconsin and now health officials are speaking out hoping to prevent more fatalities from happening. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) says the child had not been vaccinated.

Tuesday, Feb. 19 doctors at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin held a press conference urging people to get vaccinated if you haven't already because they say influenza in Wisconsin hasn't even peaked yet.

"This death in Wisconsin of a pediatric patient was just a wake-up call to everybody," said Dr. Lyn Ranta, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

It's a sobering reminder about the importance of prevention.

"Make sure your child is vaccinated, make sure they stay healthy, they are well fed and well nourished and sleep well. Be careful about exposure to all germs. Make sure they are hand-washing," said Dr. Ranta.

Dr. Lyn Ranta, a pediatrician for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, says that is all crucial, especially after learning that Wisconsin has reported the first pediatric death from influenza this season. She recommends that all children over six months receive vaccinations.

Lyn Ranta

"Particularly any of our young patients who have chronic health conditions such as asthma, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, diabetes, those patients are at higher risk," said Dr. Ranta.

Adults are being urged as well to protect those who are vulnerable.

"This would be people with immune suppression like cancer other people who have chronic health conditions, 24 one of the high risk groups is someone who is pregnant or just given birth," said Dr. Ranta.

Though this season's flu shot is less than 50 percent effective at preventing infection, it will help decrease chances of getting sick and reducing the severity of illness.

"We know that influenza is particularly helpful in preventing severe infection and hospitalization. There is still vaccine available in the community," Dr. Ranta said.

DHS officials say the flu in Wisconsin has reached what they call an acceleration stage. Which means they're seeing more hospitalizations statewide now, up to 20 or 30 each day and we don't expect to see the season peak for another six weeks or so.