Information for parents as flu levels rise in Massachusetts, across the nation
February 18, 2009
Boston, Mass. - Influenza rates are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A child from Massachusetts appears to have died from the flu virus, becoming the state's first child victim of the flu this winter.
This is the first flu season where the CDC recommended that all children between 6 months and eighteen years of age receive the flu vaccine.*
"Each year about 35,000 people die from the flu in the U.S.," says Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, medical director of Infection Control at Children's Hospital Boston. "It's a very serious illness, which is why receiving the vaccine is so important."
A highly contagious virus, the flu is one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season. Symptoms of the flu include high fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. If a child presents with these symptoms, parents should call their pediatrician.
Sandora notes that while we are nearing the peak of the flu season in Massachusetts, it's not too late to get the flu shot and that children who have not received the vaccine should get one through their health care provider.
"It usually takes a couple of weeks from the time you get the shot to be fully protected," says Sandora, "but flu activity tends to continue through at least March so it would be wise for children who have not received the vaccine to receive it now."
As the strains of influenza that circulate change from year to year, so do the strains that are included in the vaccine to protect from the virus. This year's vaccine protects against two strains of influenza type A and one strain of influenza type B. So far, the two strains for influenza type A seem to match the viruses that have been circulating, making the vaccine very effective at preventing the flu.
To help reduce the spread of flu from person to person, Sandora recommends that sick children and adults stay home from school and work, and wash hands frequently.
*For more information about the new CDC recommendations, visit this Web site.
Children's Hospital Boston is home to the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and 13 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is a 397-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Children's also is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about the hospital and its research visit: www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom.