A 4-year-old died from complications stemming from influenza -- the first pediatric flu-related death in Riverside County this season, health officials said Wednesday.
"Our condolences go out to the loved ones who have suffered such a great loss," county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said. "This is a tragic reminder that the flu can still kill and that children are particularly susceptible to the illness. We continue to recommend community members get their flu shot."
According to the Riverside University Health System, the child, whose identity was not disclosed, was from the southwest county area and was taken to a hospital outside the county, where the death occurred last week.
Kaiser said the victim had not received a flu shot and did not have any known pre-existing health disorders.
It was the second reported death this season. In November, a 60-year-old Riverside man died from flu-related complications.
According to RUHS officials, there were 23 flu-related deaths involving residents 64 years of age or younger during the 2017-18 flu season.
Kaiser appeared before the Board of Supervisors in October to underscore the need for inoculations, referencing the 100-year anniversary of the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, when the Spanish Flu rampaged across several continents. Nearly 700,000 people died from flu-related health impacts in the U.S. at the time, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. There were an estimated 500 million infections globally, resulting in about 50 million deaths.
Kaiser acknowledged that last season's flu vaccines proved to be only 40 percent effective against the viral strains that spread throughout the county and state. However, even at the lower level of protection, "you're still 40 percent less likely to get the flu, and even if you do get it, it's usually less severe,'' he said.
According to the CDC, vaccinations have attendant risks, including causing infections, but those cases are rare.
Flu vaccine critics, including naturopathy practitioners, argue that mercury, detergents and other additives sometimes packed into the shots can do more harm than good. They generally recommend high doses of vitamin C and similar natural remedies to ward off and combat the virus.
The flu is a respiratory illness marked by fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, head and body aches. Vomiting and diarrhea also are known to occur.
According to health officials, frequent hand-washing and "social distancing" -- avoiding someone exhibiting symptoms -- are sure methods to avoid contracting the flu, which is passed through droplets from a sick person's cough or sneeze.
People fighting infections should minimize contact with others until their symptoms abate.
Flu shots are available at the Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley, at any of the county's 10 health clinics, as well as most pharmacies and doctors' offices, officials said.
Flu season generally spans early fall to early spring.