Information for Parents as Flu Levels Rise Across the Nation



Influenza rates are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A child appears to have died from the flu virus, becoming the nation's first child victim of the flu this winter.

This is the first flu season where the CDC recommended that all children between 6 months and eighteen years of age receive the flu vaccine.*

"Each year about 35,000 people die from the flu in the U.S.," says Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, medical director of Infection Control. "It's a very serious illness, which is why receiving the vaccine is so important."

A highly contagious virus, the flu is one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season. Symptoms of the flu include high fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. If a child presents with these symptoms, parents should call their pediatrician.

Sandora notes that while we are nearing the peak of the flu season in the US, it's not too late to get the flu shot and that children who have not received the vaccine should get one through their health care provider.

"It usually takes a couple of weeks from the time you get the shot to be fully protected," says Sandora, "but flu activity tends to continue through at least March so it would be wise for children who have not received the vaccine to receive it now."

As the strains of influenza that circulate change from year to year, so do the strains that are included in the vaccine to protect from the virus. This year's vaccine protects against two strains of influenza type A and one strain of influenza type B. So far, the two strains for influenza type A seem to match the viruses that have been circulating, making the vaccine very effective at preventing the flu.

To help reduce the spread of flu from person to person, Sandora recommends that sick children and adults stay home from school and work, and wash hands frequently.


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