The Ramsey County 8-year-old had no underlying health problems.
An 8-year-old Ramsey County child died Wednesday morning of complications of the flu and pneumonia, and medical experts stressed it's not too late for people to get a flu shot.
The child had no underlying medical condition and had not been vaccinated, said Kris Ehresmann, head of immunizations for the state Health Department. It was the first death of a Minnesota child from the flu so far this season, she said.
Fifty-five schools in 28 counties in Minnesota reported likely flu outbreaks involving hundreds of kids last week. Schools report flu outbreaks once normal absences double.
Officials refused to identify the child or his or her hometown, or to identify the affected schools.
The outbreaks at 55 schools are outpacing the number of cases typically reported at this time annually in the flu season -- October through April.
The child who died Wednesday fell ill with Influenza Type A but then developed bacterial pneumonia, which is a secondary complication, Ehresmann said.
The flu vaccine always contains two Type A strains and one Type B strain.
"At this point, our lab hasn't done the specific typing to see if it's a strain or subtype that would have been covered by the vaccine," Ehresmann said. "But everything that we've seen thus far that's been circulating are covered by the vaccine."
Deaths are usually adults
In Minnesota, several hundred deaths -- mostly adults -- can be attributed each year to influenza or related pneumonia, Ehresmann said.
In the seven-county Twin Cities area, no children died from the flu from October 2003 through April 2004. In the 2004-05 flu season, one child died. In the 2005-06 season, no children died. This year, there has been just the one death in the metro area -- and the state.
"Influenza deaths, thankfully, are uncommon in children," Ehresmann said. "However, when they've done some reviews looking back, they've found that 70 percent of the deaths, in the 2- to 17-year age range, have been in healthy children."
Nationwide, there were 35 flu-related deaths in children in the 2005-06 season, down from 152 in 2003-04, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. An estimated 36,000 people die from flu and complications each year across the nation.
On average, 90 to 100 U.S. kids die of the flu each year.
"Every year, we've got influenza in our state, and it varies from year to year in how much it affects our communities and our kids and our elderly, and all of us," said Cynthia Hiltz, president of the School Nurse Organization of Minnesota.
The school district where the child was enrolled will send an informational letter to parents. Parents should not give children with the flu any salicylate-containing medications, such as aspirin, because of the potential for lethal Reyes syndrome, Ehresmann said. People should contact their health-care provider if they or their child's symptoms surpass those of a common cold, she said.
Victims more often elderly
Usually it's not the kids who get really sick or die from the flu but the elderly people they infect.