A child under 4 years old has died of the flu in Monroe County, becoming the first fatality of this year's flu season.
The death, reported in the county's weekly flu surveillance information, happened sometime between Oct. 1 and Oct. 19.
County public health commissioner Michael Mendoza confirmed the death, but said the county cannot share any more information about the child.
Flu season is usually most active from November through April, but this year, doctors said, it's arrived early.
Dr. Neil Herendeen, the medical director of the pediatric practice at Golisano Children's Hospital, said the early arrival of the virus means parents shouldn't wait to get their kids vaccinated.
His colleague, pediatrician Elizabeth Murray, came up with the hashtag #FluBeforeBoo to drive home the recommendation that children should get their flu shot before Halloween.
Virtually all children, Herendeen said, will be exposed during the school day to other kids who are sick.
"And the exposure is not just direct exposure, somebody coughed on you," he stressed. "It's who coughed in that room 10 minutes before you got there. The flu virus can last on doorknobs, tabletops, in the air ... and one cough can spread 10 feet."
For those who don't like needles, Herendeen said the nasal vaccine is just as effective for anyone over the age of 2 who doesn't have an autoimmune disorder such as asthma or diabetes.
He strongly recommends that extended families, including anyone who comes into contact with children, get their flu shots at a doctor's office or a pharmacy before the virus starts widely circulating.
According to the county's flu surveillance report, 14 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Monroe County this season. Six people have been hospitalized.