As indicated on the map above, the CDC reported last week that “Influenza Season 2016-17” is off and running. Pennsylvania is one of 12 states reporting “widespread” influenza. Influenza subtype A appears to be the predominant strain circulating in North America at the moment. Both influenza A and B subtypes are included in this year’s influenza vaccine, which has been shown to be highly effective this season in preventing influenza outright, or preventing the flu’s worst symptoms.

Maggie Fox studied the CDC’s maps and figures and says this year “looks a little worse than last year’s relatively mild season looked at this point…”:

Flu usually hits the very young and the very old the hardest. Depending on the season, it kills anywhere between 4,000 and 50,000 people a year in the United States. Because each flu case is not counted, public health experts have to estimate flu’s toll, and don’t get a good picture until the end of the season.

 

Fox reviews the symptoms one can expect to suffer if influenza comes a-knockin’:

Influenza can be diagnosed with a test but symptoms are usually clear. They include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sometimes, usually in children, vomiting or diarrhea

 

This begs the question: If you could prevent getting even one of these symptoms (none of which would be mild) from a common and highly contagious pathogen simply by receiving a shot in the arm that every year is proven safe, why in the world wouldn’t you get one? Fox also mentions symptoms indicative of an especially severe infection with a potentially catastrophic outcome:

Flu is rarely an emergency but doctors say to get kids to an emergency room fast if they have these symptoms:

  • fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • bluish skin
  • if they don’t drink fluids or cannot be awakened.

 

Adults need immediate medical help if they have:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • sudden dizziness or confusion
  • severe vomiting

 

Especially dangerous is if people have flu-like symptoms, seem to get better, and then symptoms return. That could indicate a second infection and needs quick treatment.

 

The answer to the question is simple: Get a flu shot this and every year. Get one from your doctor, or from your child’s doctor, or at a local pharmacy. It’s not too late; influenza probably won’t peak for another month before it slowly declines in the early months of Spring, so call our offices today and get your kids vaccinated. All pediatricians have seen these symptoms in their patients — the bad symptoms and the frightening ones, too. This time of year we all see lots of children with influenza who are brought into the office by their parents, many of whom exhibit similar symptoms themselves. And all too often, throughout the year, we encounter parents who, for a variety of poor excuses, refuse to immunize their children — and themselves — against this brutal disease.

Again, I ask: Why?

 

(Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)