Our strangely balmy mid-February days might suggest that winter is almost over, but the viruses didn’t get the memo. We are seeing high levels of influenza infection at Pediatric Associates of Northern Colorado and this seems to be a nationwide trend. The CDC’s most recent update on flu activity shows that cases are increasing and that there have been a higher number of complications and deaths compared to last year.
An average of more than 200,000 hospitalizations per year are related to influenza, with about 37% occurring in persons younger than 65 years. In nursing homes, attack rates may be as high as 60%, with fatality rates as high as 30%. Among children 0–4 years of age, hospitalization rates have varied from 100 per 100,000 healthy children to as high as 500 per 100,000 for children with underlying medical conditions. Hospitalization rates for children 24 months of age and younger are comparable to rates for persons 65 and older. Children 24-59 months of age are at less risk of hospitalization from influenza than are younger children, but are still at increased risk for influenza-associated clinic and emergency department visits.
The seasonal influenza vaccine distributed this year is a good match for the circulating strains of influenza virus that we are seeing locally. There are two major antigens we talk about that identify the virus: H (hemagglutanin) and N (neuraminidase). There are at least 18 kinds of H and 9 kinds of N. About 90% of the strains we are seeing are an H3N2 Influenza A virus which was included in this year’s vaccine. Influenza B and an H1N1 Flu A strain make up the balance of cases.
We still have influenza vaccine available for this year’s ongoing flu season. If your child has not yet been vaccinated, it would still be a valuable step to take to help prevent infection with this virus. Whether you got the flu vaccine or not this year, frequent hand washing, care not to share toys or utensils that have come in contact with another child or an infected adult, and remembering to cover your cough and sneezes are helpful to limit the virus’ spread. We are here for you. If your child has influenza symptoms (high fever, cough, bodyaches, headache) then come see us early in the course (the frist 48 hrs) to be tested and offered possible treatment.