Monday, March 25th, 2013
The seasonal flu claimed the lives of 105 children, almost none of whom receives their annual flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting. That figure is more than triple the usual number of children who die from seasonal flu, according to NBCNews.com:
“We are getting close to the end of the flu season now but it’s not over,” says CDC flu expert Dr. Michael Jhung.
Deaths from flu and pneumonia are “barely” above the annual level designated as “epidemic”, he said. “We get an epidemic of flu every year,” Jhung added in a telephone interview. “It’s just the flu season. We assign the name epidemic to it.”
Officials reported that six children died of flu last week, the CDC said. That brings the total to 105 for this season, compared to 34 last year. But in the 2010-2011 flu season 122 died, and when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic hit in 2009-2010, it killed 282 U.S. children.
Most of the children who died – 90 percent of them – had not been vaccinated against flu.
This may be confusing, as CDC had reported that the flu vaccine was not especially effective in those most at risk from flu – the elderly. But Jhung says it protects children pretty well.
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Friday, February 15th, 2013
Some schools who offer award incentives to students who have perfect attendance are reconsidering their policies amid concerns that it might encourage ambitious students to come to school when they are contagious from the seasonal flu. More from NBC News:
Round Meadow Elementary School gives awards to the handful of students who make it through an entire school year with a perfect attendance record – that means no absences, no tardies, and no early sign-outs. (No exceptions.)
But the school, in Hidden Hills, Calif., may change its policy for the 2013-14 school year, says principal Jeremy Resnick. The flu has hit students and staff hard this year, and he doesn’t want to encourage kids to come to school, or their parents to send them, when they have a potentially contagious disease.
Despite automated phone calls reminding parents that their children should stay home if they have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, “we think there are probably people who are sending their kids to school when they shouldn’t,” he says.
That’s one of the reasons many schools ditched that type of award because of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, says Andrea Vazzana, a child and adolescent psychologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center. And others, like Round Meadow, are reconsidering in light of this year’s flu and norovirus outbreaks.
For now, the award is in place, but Resnick says he tries to keep it low key – a paper certificate and maybe a gift certificate to a local restaurant – so as not to make it too tempting to come to school sick. Fewer than a dozen of the school’s 550-odd students get the award each year, and out of nine elementary schools in the district, Round Meadow is one of the only schools to still have an annual perfect attendence.
Schools are right to be cautious. Like offices, classrooms and hallways are great places for infectious diseases to spread, with close contact between students and plenty of shared surfaces. (Let’s not even talk about the nose-picking and pencil-sucking habits of younger kids.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children stay home from school until their temperatures measure below 100 degrees, without medication, for 24 hours.
Image: Girl wiping her nose, via Shutterstock
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Monday, February 11th, 2013
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data Friday that should give families across the country a bit of encouragement–the number of new cases of seasonal influenza, or flu, decreased in early February in most areas of the U.S. More from CNN.com:
The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Friday, concludes that “influenza activity remained elevated in the United States, but decreased in most areas” in the week of January 27 to February 2, for which the latest information is available.
In the latest report, 38 states reported widespread influenza activity, down from 42 the week before.
Although the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness, 3.6%, is still above the national baseline of 2.2%, it is lower than the previous week’s estimate of 4.2%.
The disease is still claiming lives, however.
“The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was above the epidemic threshold,” the report said.
The number of pediatric deaths from influenza rose by 14, for a total of 59 this season. While that is more than the 34 pediatric deaths for all of last year’s season, it is much lower than the 153 pediatric deaths in the 2003 to 2004 season, which saw a similar H3N2 virus responsible for a lot of illness, for example. Adult deaths due to flu are not tracked by the CDC.
Image: Girl blowing nose, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 10th, 2013
This season’s outbreak of influenza, or flu, is raging across the country, taking kids out of school and parents out of work at levels that dwarf last year’s flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than half of the country’s states have reported widespread infection levels, flu has hospitalized more than 2,200 people across the country, and 18 children have died as a result of infection. It is not too late, CDC officials say, for people to get–and be protected by–the flu vaccine.
More from CNN:
Why so many cases?
Zich theorizes that one reason there are so many flu cases is that the heart of the flu season coincided with the December holiday season, meaning many people were already sleep-deprived from parties and were more likely to get sick.
Those who went to gatherings of family or friends may have already begun to feel sick, and spread the virus to others. People are generally contagious the day before symptoms start, and for five days after becoming sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last flu season was light, but this year has brought with it some “ominous signs,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.
Flu cases started going up early, toward the end of November and the beginning of December, he said.
“And it went up on a pretty steep trajectory,” he said. “The last time we saw that happen that way was the flu season of 2003 and 2004, which turned out to be a bad flu season.”
The type of flu that is going around is called H3N2, which is often linked to more serious disease compared to other flu varieties, Fauci said.
But there’s good news: That type of flu matches up well to the vaccine that is being distributed and given out throughout the United States.
People may get more complications from this particular strain of H3N2, “which may make them ill for a longer period of time,” Dr. Michael Jhung, medical epidemiologist in the influenza division at CDC, told CNN’s Mary Snow.
“But symptoms typically last up to seven days for a normal infection, a noncomplicated infection with influenza,” he said. “And we usually see that from year to year regardless of what strains are circulating.”
The CDC says it will release updated information on Friday. Meanwhile, it offers these tips to prevent the spread of seasonal flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Image: Flu-stricken woman, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, November 13th, 2012
A new study in the journal Pediatrics has found that women who had the flu or prolonged fever during pregnancy were twice as likely to have an autistic child than those who did not.
The researchers involved in the study wrote: “We found almost a twofold increased risk of infantile autism in the child after self-reported infection with influenza virus during pregnancy,” which suggests that the mother’s immune response may affect a child’s developing brain. However, women who reported other infections during pregnancy, such as a cold or UTI, were not any more likely to have a child with autism. Health officials said the finding reinforces their recommendations that pregnant women should get flu shots, which will protect the mother and baby for the first six months after birth.
Additionally, researchers found that women who had a fever lasting a week or longer—either caused by the flu or unrelated to the flu—were three times as likely to give birth to a child with autism, which supports findings from a recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
“It is important to bear in mind that when you look at the absolute numbers, we see that around 99 percent of women reporting to have had influenza or fever during pregnancy, do not have children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder),” researcher Dr. Hjördis Ósk Atladóttir of the University of Aarhus in Denmark told NBC. “We want to reassure women. In this study, most women who experienced flu or prolonged fever or who were taking antibiotics did not have children with an autism spectrum disorder,” asserted Boyle.
Image: Sick pregnant woman via Shutterstock
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