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Alert: Flu is Here!

Flu is here! I just saw 3 patients from 1 family who has tested positive. Go out and get a flu shot today!I am writing this with trepidation as I have just seen my first 3 cases of Influenza A! Does this mean that we have a long winter flu season ahead, or does it mean it will come early and leave early?  

I only wish that I had the crystal ball that would/could predict this, but what I do know for a fact, flu is not fun!! These first 3 patients, all from the same family, really did not “look like the typical influenza” that I think of when we start seeing flu.  In this family of five, only the father had already received the flu vaccine, and as of now, he is the only one in the family not to get sick.  (I am happy to report that I too got my flu shot about 2 weeks ago, hooray!) When this 5 year old girl came to the office with a 2 day history of a fever and a headache, she really looked no different than numerous other children I had been seeing with a fall viral syndrome.  She definitely looked like she didn’t feel well but was sitting on her mom’s lap, did not have a cough or congestion and had no other real symptoms.  She did complain about a “scratchy throat” and her strep test was negative. It is not unusual to see a few days of fever with any virus, so she was sent home with instructions to treat her fever, and to return if the fever persisted more than another 24 – 48 hours or if she had new symptoms etc. She improved over the next 24 hours and returned to school the day after. The following day her 3 year old sibling began running a fever, again complained of a headache and was brought to the office.  Her mother requested that a flu test be done, as “there is a lot of flu at her school”.  That was an interesting comment as the Dallas County health Dept. had reported “little to no” influenza activity to date, and our office sends flu samples to the health department for epidemiology. But, knowing that “mother knows best” a flu test was performed and low and behold, it was positive for influenza A.  I was shocked!!! How could they have flu with essentially just a fever and headache?   It was after the fever was gone that they developed the classic congestion and cough that we doctors typically associate with the flu. This is really early in the season to typically see flu and if the Health Dept. is correct based on other samples this was probably H3N2 flu.  Now we are wondering if we are going to see more similar cases or if this is just a fluke?  In talking with other docs in the community, they too did not think they had yet seen influenza, or had they “missed cases” with kids who just had a fever. Take home message for all of this is GO GET YOUR FLU SHOT or FLU MIST , as I like to say “run don’t walk” because a virus has a mind of its own and trying to predict what course it will take  is often an exercise in futility. But this I know to be true, there will be more flu cases over the next 4 months, but when the “true season” begins is still an unknown. That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Your Child

New Flu Vaccine for 2015-2016

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Last year’s flu vaccine wasn’t as effective as previous vaccines, but this year’s vaccine should be a much better match according to Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

Typically, the vaccine is 50 to 60 percent effective, making your chances of getting the flu reduced by as much as 60 percent if you get a flu shot.

This year’s flu vaccine contains the H3N2 strain, Frieden said. Last year's vaccine was only 13 percent effective against the H3N2 strain. As a result, "more seniors were hospitalized for the flu than ever before."

What's more, 145 children died from the flu, Frieden said, adding that the actual number was "probably much higher since many flu deaths aren't reported."

About 50 percent of the American population gets vaccinated every flu season. That includes pregnant women. More people, including pregnant women, need to be vaccinated, Frieden said.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot every year.

Frieden said there's an adequate supply of flu vaccine this year. Companies are expected to make 170 million doses of vaccine, of which 40 million have already been distributed, he said.

People at risk of flu-related complications include young children, especially those younger than 2 years; people over 65; pregnant women; and people with chronic health problems, such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, as well as those with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.

Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.

Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.

The CDC encourages people to get a flu shot preferably by October. Those children aged 6 months through 8 years who need two doses of vaccine should receive the first dose as soon as possible to allow time to get the second dose before the start of flu season. The two doses should be given at least four weeks apart.

During this flu season:

•       Intramuscular (IM) vaccines will be available in both trivalent and quadrivalent formulations. (High dose vaccines, which are IM vaccines, will all be trivalent this season.)

•       For people who are 18 through 64 years old, a jet injector can be used for delivery of one particular trivalent flu vaccine.

•       Nasal spray vaccines will all be quadrivalent this season.

•       Intradermal vaccine will all be quadrivalent.

The quadrivalent flu vaccine is designed to protect against four different flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

It’s hard to believe that we’re about to head into the flu season, particularly with so many states still experiencing summer like weather. But we are, and getting a flu shot early can help protect you and your family from a virus no one wants to get.

Sources: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/flu-news-314/no-embargo-this-year-s-flu-vaccine-better-match-703392.html

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2015-2016.htm

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

A few life lessons & fun with Elf on the Shelf!

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