By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
January 18, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Influenza has left two Florida children dead since the start of the year in a flu season that state officials say is worse than any they've ever seen.
The State Department of Health says it has never seen this many flu outbreaks this early in the season. Since January 1, there have been 34 outbreaks throughout the state, and more than 100 since the season began in October.
The virus has left two children dead from flu-related complications.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis used his flu shot as an opportunity to spread awareness.
"These different types of vaccines that we've been able to introduce into healthcare have increased the lifespans of people," he said. "And at the end, it's good for health."
The vaccine remains the most effective way to prevent getting sick.
"It's not going to guarantee you not getting sick," Patronis explained. "But it is absolutely better than the alternative."
Young children and the elderly are at the highest risk of dying from the virus. 94 percent of the outbreaks in the state this year have been in facilities serving the at-risk populations, like day cares and retirement homes.
Hospitals say they aren't doing anything different this year than they would do any other flu season.
The Florida Hospital Association's Vice President for Nursing and Clinical Care Policy Martha DeCastro says hospitals take precautions every flu season.
"If they're admitted, they'd be placed on isolation with special precautions that are recommended by the CDC," she said.
In addition to the vaccine, DeCastro says avoiding large crowds and frequently sanitizing your hands can help.
People remain at risk until the end of flu season, which is in May. Many pharmacies offer the vaccination at no cost.