Nasty flu strain spreads faster, making many children and adults sick

Nasty flu strain spreads faster, making many children and adults sick

There have been no pediatric deaths so far this season in Georgia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Southeast is being hit by a particularly nasty strain of flu that is often associated with serious illness and hospitalization. This dominant strain is a subtype of the influenza A virus, known by the scientific name of H3N2, which can be especially difficult for children and older adults.

The vast majority of children hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are for respiratory viruses, according to a spokesperson. Flu-related hospitalizations are the driving force behind the current rush.

RSV respiratory disease, which had been on the rise in infants and young children in August, September and October, has slowed in recent weeks, officials said. The number of children hospitalized for COVID-19 at Children’s is a distant third.

Dr. Andi Shane, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University, said that 95% of children hospitalized in the intensive care unit for influenza at Children’s have not been vaccinated or, in some cases, , they are only partially vaccinated. . (Children ages 6 months to 8 years who have never had a flu shot or who have only had one flu shot should get two this year, one month apart, for maximum protection.)

“We, along with children’s hospitals in the southeastern US and across the US, face daily challenges related to capacity,” Shane said in an email. “Both available beds and staffing to care for children are ongoing challenges we all face. Needs are greatest for intensive care beds and staff, as well as for emergency department beds and staff.”

He urged parents to take steps to prevent the spread of disease.

“We are asking for the help of parents and families to do everything we can to prevent illness: get vaccinated, wash your hands and stay home when you are sick,” he said.

Flu cases are also on the rise among adults. Dr. Andrew Reisman, a Gainesville physician and former president of the Georgia Medical Association, said he’s seeing an unusually high volume of sick flu patients, especially early in the season. He is not aware of any of the adult patients requiring hospitalization, but he described the illness among some of his patients as “pretty bad,” with symptoms including high fever and muscle and body aches.

The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months get a flu shot every year before the end of October, though the agency emphasizes that it’s better to get vaccinated later than not at all. A flu shot can prevent infection, and among those who still get the flu, vaccination can reduce the severity of the disease.

“We are very busy. Our office is full,” said Dr. Hugo Scornik, a local pediatrician and former president of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It looks like we are in for a severe flu season. months and older should get a flu shot right away.”

Uptake of the flu shot is low this year, even as the country experiences a resurgence of respiratory viruses. So far this season, CDC data shows flu vaccine coverage among children is 24.8%, comparable to vaccination rates at the same time last year of 25.2%. Influenza vaccination coverage is also low among adults, estimated at 21.2%.

Flu vaccines are updated every year based on what experts learn from previous seasons and flu patterns in other parts of the world.

This season, the seasonal flu vaccine protects against four types of influenza viruses, according to the CDC: influenza A H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes, and influenza B Victoria and Yamagata lineages, which refer to branches of the family tree of the flu.

Influenza A(H3N2) viruses present the greatest challenge to manufacturers of the annual flu vaccine, primarily because the viruses mutate faster. Experts say a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu, and even if you do get the flu, the shot can reduce the severity of your illness.

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