MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Officials at WVU Medicine University Healthcare have confirmed that a three-year-old who tested positive for the flu died last week at Berkeley Medical Center.

It’s the first flu death in the Eastern Panhandle this season but not the first in the state or region. A six-year-old Ohio County girl died from the flu last month.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the overall hospitalization rate is higher than the overall hospitalization rate reported during the same week of the 2014-2015 season; the most severe season in recent years.

Nurse Director for the Berkeley County Health Department Angie Gray tells WEPM News that is partially due to this year’s H3N2 strain, which spreads faster and mutates quicker than common strains.

“We have different strains of flu that circulate throughout the year, and even at the same time,” she said. “But when H3N2 is the predominant strain, it’s usually a rough flu season.”

And that’s just what is being reported.

The CDC says that at 7.1 percent, influenza-like-illness activity is approaching the 7.7 percent peak of the 2009 pandemic.

Gray said simple steps can be followed to protect yourself and your children.

“Stay home when you’re sick, wash your hands. I always say you can’t underestimate the power of washing your hands.

But she said even as we enter the second month of the year getting the flu shot is still important.

Even though it hasn’t been as effective this year as it has in years past she said it still has value.

“It’s going to decrease your symptoms, because it is giving you some protection, which can then decrease the amount of days that you’re infectious.”

She said that will help reduce the spread of the virus.

Gray said the flu season could last into April this year.

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