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Flu blamed for 2 child deaths in New York City

NEW YORK – Two New York City children have died from the flu this season, officials confirmed to CBS New York. Among them is an 8-year-old Queens girl who died Monday morning.

Authorities responded to the girl's home Sunday where she was having difficulty breathing. She was taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, where she was diagnosed with influenza. The girl, who sources identify as Amely Baez, passed away at 6:30 a.m. Monday at the hospital.

There was no immediate word as to whether the girl had received a flu shot this year or not.

Parents in the neighborhood can't help but think it could have been their child.

"It's sad," Carlos Arroyo told CBS New York. "We were talking about it when we was walking to pick her up, wondering what the mom must be going through knowing she lost her child."

Arroyo and his wife say even though they don't know the mother or child, their hearts hurt.

"The school community is deeply saddened by this loss," the city's Department of Education said in a statement. "The safety and wellbeing of students and staff is always our top priority, and school nurses are trained to evaluate students with flu-like symptoms and advise families on best practices."

Officials say best way to prevent infection other than the vaccine is frequent hand washing or use of alcohol sanitizer.

"The tragic death of a child due to the flu is a reminder of the devastating effects this illness can have on people of all ages. The influenza season is far from over, and it is not too late to get the flu shot. We urge parents to protect themselves and their families by getting this potentially life-saving vaccine today," the city's Health Department said in a statement.

Arroyo and other parents said they didn't hesitate to get their children vaccinated.

"You've got to be extra cautious about germs and infections going around," Antoinette Millien said. "My suggestion, don't send your child back to school if they're not fully well."

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also confirmed a second child had died from the flu, but did not immediately release further details such as the child's age or when the death happened.

The Centers for Disease Control reports 53 pediatric deaths from the flu nationwide this season, and the two children from New York will soon be added to the list.

In December, a 4-year-old New Jersey girl died from the flu. At least 19 states have reported one or more pediatric death this flu season. 

With the flu spreading like wildfire, so too are the myths surrounding the virus and its vaccine.

"You cannot get the flu from the flu shot," CBS New York's Dr. Max Gomez said. "It's made with killed or inactivated flu virus, so it can't give you the flu."

Additionally, Gomez says don't be fooled if you're otherwise healthy. No matter what, it's best to get the shot.

"There are plenty of young, healthy people who died from the flu," he said. "So it's not safe playing that kind of roulette."

During the 2016-2017 flu season, there were 106 flu-related pediatric deaths nationally, including six in New York City.