Health officials in New Jersey just confirmed the death of a 4-year old girl in December was due to the flu. A 12-year old Florida boy, whose parents describe him as “healthy as an ox” also died from influenza shortly after symptoms began to appear.
The number of children dying or being hospitalized as a result of the flu this year is simply staggering: More than 30 children have died and more than 8,900 have been hospitalized as a result of the flu. The numbers will only increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control, since it takes a few weeks for the CDC to gather the latest information from the nation’s hospitals. Flu season typically peaks in February, but it can last till May.
There have been more than 4,000 confirmed cases of flu in New Jersey alone, putting emergency rooms at full capacity and making this the worst flu season ever recorded in the state. Nationwide, nearly 7,000 people have gone to the ER with recorded cases of flu.
So what makes this year’s flu virus so much worse? The strain currently sweeping the nation is the H3N2 virus, considered to be one of the most severe flu strains, especially for young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not since this year’s vaccine isn’t a perfect match.
But it is still very important to get the vaccine, CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald told Reuters that about 85% of the children who died probably had not been vaccinated. So while the vaccine may not give you and your child 100% protection, it can still lessen the severity of the symptoms and potentially save your life. Aside from getting vaccinated, what else can you do? The CDC’s Fitzgerald emphasizes the importance of good ‘ol hand-washing. A habit we all need to emphasize to our kids (over and over!).
But if your child does become ill, how do you know if it’s something serious? Doctors tell parents to get their child to the emergency room if he/she has any of these symptoms:
*Fast or troubled breathing
*If your child is refusing liquids or cannot be awakened
*Sudden dizziness or confusion
The good news is officials believe flu season activity has peaked. But stay vigilant. May is still a long way away.