HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (KVEO) — Officials in Hidalgo County, Texas, have confirmed that a 3-year-old girl’s death earlier this month was flu-related.

The child’s death is the nation’s first confirmed pediatric flu death in the United States for the 2022 flu season, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data updated Friday, Oct. 28.

County health officials had said the child died of “respiratory symptoms” after testing positive for the flu. State officials have now confirmed the child’s death was flu-related, Hidalgo County Public Affairs Division Director Carlos Sanchez said.

On 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 News 2’s sister station, KVEO, 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.

Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo said the flu was nearly dormant for the past two years due to measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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Now, Castillo said the county is experiencing an uptick in flu cases and hospitalizations. This increase isn’t limited to South Texas — there is 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 KVEO 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.