While the flu vaccine takes seven to 10 days to kick in, health providers are recommending that residents get shots, particularly children, the elderly and the infirm. This year's vaccine mix has proven effective against the predominant flu strain.

While reminding residents that it's not too late to get vaccinated, doctors and nurses called the recent death of a 12-year-boy from apparent flu complications a tragic but highly unusual event.

"Fortunately, it's pretty rare," said Dr. Jerry Wortzman, chairman of pediatrics at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, Mass. "And unfortunately, these cases are very hard to predict. That's been part of the experience of influenza forever."

The 12-year-old, a Boston student, died over the weekend. Based on his symptoms and a preliminary test, state health officials have surmised that he succumbed to flu complications, and are asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.

Department of Public Health officials said they were investigating whether the boy suffered from additional infections like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial infection known as MRSA that leaves many antibiotics powerless, or from other health conditions that rendered him more vulnerable. He reportedly had not been vaccinated against the flu.

Before flu season started, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidelines, recommending that children between 6 months and 18 years old receive shots, rather than just those between 6 months and 5 years.

"It takes time for the word of that to get out," said John Jacob, a health department spokesman.

Flu season normally peaks after January and can run through April.

While the flu vaccine takes seven to 10 days to kick in, health providers are recommending that residents get shots, particularly children, the elderly and the infirm. This year's vaccine mix has proven effective against the predominant flu strain.

"The good news is, people can still get immunity against the flu," said Kim Knox, the infection prevention nurse at Milford Regional Medical Center in Milford, Mass. Knox also advised residents to prevent the spread of flu by covering their coughs, washing their hands and staying home when sick.

MetroWest Daily News writer Michael Morton can be reached at mmorton@cnc.com or 508-626-4338.