South Dakota reports first flu death of season

A South Dakota resident has become the state’s first flu death of this year’s season, the state’s department of health announced Monday.

The Pennington County resident -- who has not been identified -- was in the 60-69 age group, the health department said.

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The death is the state's first of the 2018-2019 season, and there have been 35 “lab-confirmed cases of the flu and 8 flu-related hospitalizations” to-date, the health agency reported.

“Our sympathy is with the family. Their loss serves as a reminder to us all that influenza can be a very serious illness,” Joshua Clayton, an epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health, said in a statement.

“It is not too late to get vaccinated for this flu season, and if you haven’t yet received your annual flu vaccination, the time to do so is now,” he added.

Each year, on average, 33 “South Dakotan deaths are reported to the Department of Health following influenza infections,” the South Dakota Department of Health said.

The death follows last year’s severe flu season, where an estimated 80,000 people were lost to the viral infection, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said in September. The 2017-2018 flu season killed the most people since the 1970s, the CDC also said at the time.

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The flu is “spread by respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes,” according to the South Dakota Department of Health, which added the infection can cause a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, a runny nose, and fatigue, among other symptoms.

To protect yourself and others against the flu, the health agency recommends receiving the flu vaccination, washing your hands with soap and water, and covering your mouth if you sneeze or cough, among other suggestions.

Fox News' Elizabeth Zwirz contributed to this report.