Fever and cough were the leading symptoms of the season’s earliest flu cases, which hit children particularly hard. Now cases of children with influenza Type B are decreasing and adults with influenza Type A are increasing in Franklin County, according to Mercy Hospital Washington.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported at the end of December that 2,257 people nationwide had been hospitalized with flu and 18 children had died from complications of the illness. Also during the month of December, the emergency department at Mercy Hospital Washington and Mercy Urgent Care clinics in the area reported 105 cases of influenza. Of those cases, 88 were Influenza B and affected 46 children ages 5 to 14.
Confirmed cases at Mercy Clinic physicians’ offices are reported directly to county health departments.
Mercy has seen just 13 flu cases in January. The Franklin County Health Department is seeing fewer cases, too. In December, the health department saw 347 cases. So far in January, there have been 78 cases. These new cases are showing more adults with influenza A. It suggests, too, that flu season could be far from over, so people need to take precautions.
“Flu symptoms can last seven to 14 days,” said Mercy Clinic Pediatrics pediatrician Douglas Durand, M.D. “The most severe symptoms occur in the first few days and then they taper off. It’s not a fun illness for anyone to encounter, so in our office, we talk a lot about prevention — vaccination, keeping hands clean and avoiding exposure.”
Dr. Durand’s office is seeing numerous children each day with cough, chest congestion, sore throat, low-grade fever, chills and listlessness. Vomiting and diarrhea are not part of the seasonal flu. They are associated with stomach viruses and can’t be inoculated.
With the seasonal flu, the virus usually needs to run its course. Dr. Durand said parents should seek medical attention when their children are exposed to the flu or they have health issues such as asthma, chronic lung disease or a weakened immune system. Doctors may be able to prescribe medicines such as Tamiflu to ease symptoms and reduce spreading the virus.
This month’s reported flu cases at the emergency department at Mercy Hospital Washington and Mercy Urgent Care clinics in the region so far seem to be on the decline compared to December’s numbers.
“Clearly, this year has seen an early flu season, but it’s possible for high levels of influenza to persist for some time,” said Dr. Durand. “We can’t say the flu season has peaked, so we need to be vigilant about protecting ourselves and our kids.”
While early immunization is the best way to stave off the flu, it’s not too late to be vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control recommends annual vaccinations starting at age 6 months. The annual vaccination suppresses ever-changing flu strains and can be administered by nasal spray or injection. Dr. Durand said the vaccination boosts the immune system, enabling us to fight off the virus.
Mercy Clinic Pediatrics is located in Suite 300 in the Mercy Medical building, 851 E. Fifth St. in Washington. For more information, or to make an appointment, call 636-390-8555.