Influenza Strains Circulating in 2014-2015; It May Be a Bad Flu Season

Flu2The CDC is warning that the upcoming flu season will be a bad one. They are reporting that 91% of the tests are positive for Influenza A type H3N2 and that half of these are not covered by the strain in this year’s vaccine.

What should you do?

If you or your family member is high risk for influenza, they are recommending treatment with oseltamivir or zanamivir. Here is who they are recommending it for:

  • Premature infants now at least 6 months old
  • Those hospitalized or with severe complicated medical conditions
  • Those with lung issues (includes asthma), heart conditions, kidney, diabetes or metabolic conditions, neurological conditions)
  • Immunosuppressed
  • They also list pregnancy, age less than 2 years, Native Americans, obesity and nursing home residents.

 

I have not found it necessary to use medications like oseltamivir or zanamivir, and effectiveness of these have been questionable in past flu seasons. If they are to be used, they need to be started in the first two days of the illness.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

The classic symptoms of the flu are fever, chills, body aches, headache, cough and congestion, and may include a sore throat.  Sometimes children in particular may have GI symptoms as well (nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea). What distinguishes this from the common cold is usually how sick you feel (higher fevers, more severe body and headaches).

As of 12/5/14, the CDC reports 5 children have died this year from the flu, mostly in the southern states.  CDC data (you can read it here… ) shows that there were 37 pediatric deaths in 2011-2012, 171 in 2012-2013 and 109 in 2013-2014 flu seasons. Most of these deaths are in children with underlying medical conditions, and usually from pneumonia and respiratory failure. No death is OK.  It is the fear of death that seems to get us all into a frenzy.  Realize that your children are much more likely to die from injury (over 10,000 a year under age 14 and more than that for the teen years).

What should you do about the flu shot?

The vaccine, while not perfect, is providing some protection.  If your child is at higher risk (see above) please call for an appointment to get the flu shot if they are over 6 months old. For otherwise healthy children, the flu shot is recommended, and it is certainly reasonable to get it.  The flu mist this year is not as effective for those 8 years old and younger, although it still provides some protection.

What should you do if you think your child has the flu?

Call us for an appointment if they are really ill.  If it is in the first two days of illness, we can consider medication.  We do have rapid flu tests, which can be helpful for the really ill child. Not all children who might have the flu need a rapid flu test, as it won’t change what we are about to do in most cases.

 

 

Dr. Paul

 

 

 

 

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