The Missoula City-County Health Department, in conjunction with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, has confirmed the state’s first influenza-related death of the 2018-2019 flu season involved a child from Missoula County.

Reportedly, six year-old Allison Eaglespeaker died from complications of the flu, pneumonia and asthma while being treated at Missoula Community Medical Center.

Health Department Director Ellen Leahy said on Monday the tragedy of losing such a young child to the flu points out the importance of the flu vaccine for every family member.

“There are deaths every year from influenza,” said Leahy. “This one happens to be the first flu death reported in the state this year. The assumption that ‘everybody knows what the flu is’ may be false. It’s not just a cold. It has respiratory symptoms and can develop into pneumonia.”

Leahy also said the flu is not a stomach virus.

“The flu is not a stomach bug, and it can hit very hard with sore throat and cough and aches and pains,” she said. “It can really knock you out. The best way to keep from getting the flu is to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. It can prevent the flu in most people or it can lessen the symptoms and the likelihood that they will end up in the hospital.”

Leahy said the flu vaccine is available at most pharmacies, or from almost any health provider, and is also available on a sliding fee scale at the Missoula County Health Department.

A memorial service for six year-old Allison Eaglespeaker was held on Monday evening at the Open Door Baptist Church.