Somehow I knew that flu would finally arrive! I kept telling my patients that during my 27 years of practice, I could not remember having a year go by that there was not some sort of flu season. I thought maybe this was going to be the year, but as you know with many things in life, “never say never.” Guess what, flu season seems to have arrived in the U.S., albeit quietly.
The CDC is reporting that for the last 2 weeks flu activity in the country has picked up and that about 15% of tests at different surveillance sites around the country are positive for influenza. So....don’t you feel good that you have gotten your flu vaccine?
Despite it being a relatively “quiet” flu season, the good news is that the influenza strains that are being reported are “in” this year’s flu vaccine (in other words it is a good match). It also appears that the flu strains are not resistant to the antiviral drugs that are typically used, which is a concern during each year’s flu season.
The flu is typically heralded by fever, body aches cough, sore throat, fatigue and just feeling terribly for anywhere from 3-10 days. Some years the fever seemed to last for a week, but the few cases I have seen this year the fever is only lasting 2-4 days. That is a good thing as well.
Fortunately, there have only been 3 pediatric deaths reported for the 2011-2012 flu season. I can only hope that this will continue to be the trend as in several recent years there were over 200 deaths in the pediatric population due to flu.
So, is it too late to get a flu vaccine? The answer is a very loud NO! No one can predict how long the flu season will last and whether there will continue to be an increase in flu activity across the country. If you don’t want flu to interfere with March spring breaks, or Easter in early April I would suggest getting vaccinated now. It takes a couple of weeks for the vaccine to work as well, so you need to get it sooner than later to be protected.
Don’t assume that just because the season is quiet that you can dodge the flu. Remember about airborne illnesses and how easily a cough can spread the flu.
I am still immunizing my 6 month old patients in hopes of providing them protection this season too. There is plenty of vaccine available this year so rather than let it “go to waste” as some does every year, let’s take advantage of the late flu season and get vaccinated now!
I hope you'll join us tomorrow, 2/21 for #KidsDrChat on twitter 9-10:00 p.m. ET!