NYC officials stress importance of vaccinations after 2 kids die from the flu

ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- The New York City Department of Health is speaking out after two children died from the flu.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said many people are still not getting vaccinated, putting themselves, their children and others at risk.

"This particular virus that we're seeing this year, the H3 and 2 virus, is a wily virus," said Bassett at a news conference Tuesday.

So far 6.5 percent of all clinic and ER visits this season have been flu-related.

"We lose more people to influenza and pneumonia every year than any other infection," said Bassett. "in 2015, the most recent year for which we have data available, 2,094 New Yorkers died of influenza and pneumonia."

Most of those deaths are among people 65 and older, but two children have now died, one of them an 8-year-old girl from Queens.

"It's heartbreaking that parents have lost young children to the flu, my heart goes out to those families," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "But I also want to say that we've got to protect our children now going forward, this is an epidemic that we have not seen in many years."

So the push is on for people to get themselves and their kids vaccinated. It can prevent the flu or lessen the symptoms.

The health department said test results confirmed the 8-year-old -- who was reported to have flu-like symptoms -- died from the influenza virus.

Amely Baez lived in the Lefrak City apartment development in the Elmhurst section of Queens. When she had trouble breathing, someone called 911.

RELATED: How to avoid catching the flu

She was rushed to the hospital, where she died at about 6:30 a.m. Monday.

The Medical Examiner's office conducted an autopsy, and found that the "death indicates the circumstances and cause were natural."

No details have been released about the second child, other than saying it was a pediatric patient from New York City.

RELATED: How to tell the difference between the flu and a cold

More than 50 children have died from the flu across the country this season.

Last week there were more than 11,000 lab confirmed cases of the virus in New York state, a 50-percent increase from the week before.

The CDC says the peak of the flu season is not here yet, and that the season will not end until May.

The CDC lists the following as warning signs of flu in children.

--Fast breathing or trouble breathing
--Bluish skin color
--Not drinking enough fluids
--Not waking up or not interacting
--Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
--Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
--Fever with a rash

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