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Dallas County sees first pediatric flu death as cases double

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Dallas’ Health and Human Services public information officer Christian Grisales said the patient had underlying health conditions.

An expert says relaxed masking and fewer COVID-era precautions are likely behind the rise.

Dallas County reported its first pediatric flu death in November, as case numbers more than doubled and respiratory illnesses spread across the region.

Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed the child had underlying conditions, but did not provide any more details. There were no reported pediatric deaths related to influenza last flu season. The previous season, three children died from the flu.

County records show positive flu tests jumped from 908 on Nov. 5 to 1,991 on Nov. 26. DCHHS reports its flu numbers on weekly cycles.

Christian Grisales, a spokesperson with the department, said COVID-19 precautions like masking, social distancing and handwashing helped keep seasonal illnesses at bay last year. Now, those measures are more relaxed.

“That’s likely the reason why we're seeing more people getting sick with the flu and also many children with RSV,” Grisales said. “These are respiratory illnesses or viruses that are affecting many people.”

There have been no recorded adult flu deaths so far. But hospitalizations due to the flu nearly doubled over the course of two weeks in November, Dallas County records show.

Grisales said the approaching holidays, accompanied by larger social gatherings and more public travel, will likely lead to a further rise in infections.

Experts encourage the public to continue masking and get vaccinated against the flu and COVID. Dallas County will host a free COVID and flu vaccine clinic at Skyline High School on Dec. 8.

Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.