KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – The flu is hitting children particularly hard this season, with the CDC reporting that 32 children have died from the illness so far, and some experts believe it could be due to a rare strain of the virus that is much more common this season.
Doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital say they’ve been seeing a lot of cases of influenza B, which is right on trend with national numbers. The majority of case involving children this season have been linked to type B.
CDC officials say the total number of deaths in pediatric flu cases this year is double from the same point of last year’s flu season.
Dr. Angela Myers, director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy, said that for the first time in 27 years, the type B virus is dominating earlier in the season, adding that one of the deaths reported nationally was a teenager who died from the flu at Children’s Mercy.
“We have seen a lot of influenza in our urgent cares, in our emergency departments, then also kids needing to be hospitalized and even in the intensive care unit,” Myers told KCTV5 News.
The latest data from Children’s Mercy shows that in one week, doctors diagnosed 143 type A cases of the flu compared to 268 type B cases. Myers also noted that was one easy thing that parents could do to reduce the likelihood of ending up at the hospital – get the flu vaccine.
“Children that die from influenza are children that are not vaccinated,” she said, adding one shot could help keep metro kids out of those numbers.
“We know that the vaccine does not prevent you from getting influenza 100% of the time, but it’s around 70% vaccine efficacy,” Myers explained. “However, it does prevent hospitalization and it prevents death.”
While flu cases continue to flood doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, Myers believes the number of flu cases will likely increase soon.
“We have not hit the peak yet for flu A or flu B, so if you haven’t received your vaccine yet please go and get it,” she said.
It takes about 2 weeks for a patient’s immune system to respond to the vaccine, so doctors recommend getting one as soon as possible. Anyone 6 months or older can get the vaccine, and for younger children, doctors recommend that parents keep them out of large crowds during flu season.