NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Health announced that a 4-year-old Santa Fe County girl has died from the flu, the first death of this year’s flu season. The Department of Health said flu hospitalizations rates in New Mexico are double the national average for children ages 0-4 years old. The percentage of visits to doctors and hospitals for flu-like symptoms has been climbing in recent weeks statewide.

“Our love and heartfelt prayers go out to the family during this difficult time,” said Acting Department of Health Secretary, David R. Scrase, M.D in news release. “Children younger than age 5 are at particular risk of flu complications, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that all children ages 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu.”

Flu seasons can vary in length and while most peak between December and February, some flu seasons can last as late as May. The Department of Health is encouraging anyone over the age of six months old to get a flu vaccine.

Since the start of this flu season, NMDOH has identified 143 pneumonia and flu-related deaths.

NMDOH recommends the following to prevent catching or spreading the flu:

  • Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after contact with other people and before eating
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve
  • Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer after blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing, even if you use a tissue
  • Stay home if you have fever and/or respiratory symptoms

People who are sick with the flu have the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.