HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Two preschool-aged children have died from the flu, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The children were four-years-old or younger, VDH spokesman Larry Hill confirmed.
The deaths were reported in the Eastern region of Virginia. That region includes Hampton Roads, the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and the Eastern Shore.
Local pediatricians like Doctor Eric Freeman of Old Dominion Pediatrics have been inundated with influenza patients.
"We've seen at least 15 to 20 cases of influenza in our office and this is a little bit early to see flu," said Dr. Freeman.
"The genetic information in the virus can have slight mutations the more and more the flu virus spreads. Even if you get the flu vaccine you may still get sick," said Dr. Freeman. "Getting the flu vaccine is better than not even if the flu vaccine isn't a perfect match in terms of the strains in the shot and what may happen with your child you still can get cross protection from other strains of flu. I do believe flu shot save lives," added Freeman.
Dr. Freeman's nurse, Marnesha Rose, who cares for flu patients every year, lost her 5-year-old nephew to the flu. He died from the virus Friday. He's from the Richmond metro area but was living in Tennessee with his parents and older sibling when he died in his sleep after being treated at the hospital.
"He was flu positive. Unfortunately, with situations sometimes it's not caught fast enough or you literally don't know," said Rose. "Wasn't too much at that point anyone could do about it that's how fast it actually happened. If you see any signs or symptoms go with your first instinct never wait. It changed my outlook to know that this is serious this is more than a common cold and it needs to be addressed than more than a common cold."
Doctor Freeman said it is not too late to get the flu vaccine, and if you do suspect your child has the flu seek immediate medical care.
"The anti-virals are best effect in the first 48 hours of illness. I think it's going to be a very bad winter for the pediatric population," said Dr. Freeman.
Kid Med centers across the region report treating 700 patients last weekend alone.