RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A child has died from flu complications in southwest Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health. This is the first pediatric death from the flu this flu season.

Richmond and Henrico Health District director Dr. Elaine Perry said that even though the flu vaccine can be hit or miss on effectiveness every year, it’s still going to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from the flu.

“It is very helpful, very effective at reducing the risk of serious illness. Again, that illness that keeps you out of school for days at a time, keeps you out of work, puts you in the hospital, or again even causes death,” Dr. Perry said in a Richmond Public Schools town hall Wednesday.

In that town hall, Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough reports flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are in high transmission, but COVID-19 cases have been on the decline as we head into winter.

She said local hospitals right now have been operating at 95% for weeks, and they’re seeing an early surge in respiratory illnesses.

At this point, two children are in the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU inpatient unit with COVID-19.

Dr. Perry recommends getting the flu and COVID vaccines, washing hands often, wearing a mask if needed and staying home when you’re sick.

There is no vaccine for RSV, but flu shots and ventilators, a machine assisting with symptoms of the virus, are available at the Richmond Health District office and some after-school clinics. An appointment is needed.

Dr. Kimbrough said parents can tell the difference between the flu, RSV and COVID-19 because the flu comes with a higher fever and muscle aches.