The fatal flu epidemic in Pierce County has claimed its first child in a death toll that now stands at 17.
According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, the child was younger than 10 years old.
Of the other flu-related deaths as of Jan. 17, 14 were older than 60, and two were in their 40s.
This week’s update by the Health Department of deaths attributed to influenza in Pierce County added 5 fatalities to the 12 that were reported as of Jan. 7.
As announced earlier this month, officials reiterated that flu-related deaths so far during the 2016-17 flu season in Pierce County have surpassed last season, but are lower than two years ago.
Fifteen flu-related deaths were recorded in the 2015-16 season. For the 2014-2015 season, the toll was 25.
Flu season typically runs from October to April.
Children under the age of 5 years old, senior, pregnant women, and anyone with diabetes, asthma or other chronic conditions are most at-risk of serious complications from the flu.
The Pierce County  who died was “one of the thousands of people (nationally) who die every year because of the flu,” said Matthew Rollosson, nurse epidemiologist at the county Health Department. “The flu is far worse than a bad cold, and in this case the virus has claimed a young life.”
There are some positive signs – hospitalizations for treatment of flu, and confirmed cases of flu have gone down – but the prevalence of flu remains high in Pierce County, officials said Jan. 18.
This flu season has been especially bad for elderly people with other medical issues, officials said, noting that outbreaks of the illness have been reported at 23 long-term care facilities.