Cook Children's Physicians Treat Outbreak of Influenza

An unusual wave of influenza has hit Texas hard. The good news is it’s not too late to protect your child from the virus.
Cook Children’s Physician Network’s Jason Terk, M.D., who offices out of Keller, said influenza has been rampant at his office over the past two weeks and he is not alone. More than 540 patients have been treated at various CCPN offices in Tarrant County from November 2008 to January 2009. Cook Children’s physicians are seeing an unusual amount of children in January with influenza. The outbreak of the virus has received media attention.
The influenza virus has two major types – influenza A and influenza B. Influenza A usually circulates first around the first of January, peaking toward the end of the month. Influenza B tends to begin in February, peaking in the middle of February and extending into March.
“We’re seeing a mix of both influenza A and B when often times we will have a break between the A and B season,” Dr. Terk said. “So we’re getting hit pretty hard.”
People often complain about having the flu saying they have a runny nose or complain of stomach issues. Dr. Terk said make no mistake, “those things are not influenza. Influenza is a specific illness caused by a virus.” Dr. Terk can usually tell a child has influenza as soon as he sees a child. The influenza virus is usually accompanied by sore throat, headaches, cough, congestion, runny nose and most importantly body aches.
The influenza virus is a serious illness, killing 36,000 people in the United States each year. The highly contagious disease attacks the lungs, nose and throat. Influenza usually lasts several days (up to a week).
To keep from getting the virus, children and their parents should make sure they wash their hands a lot, not share their personal things with others, eat healthy, get enough sleep, exercise and most importantly – get the influenza shot every year.
“The majority of the people I see in most years are those who are not vaccinated,” Dr. Terk said. “What’s important to remember is you significantly diminish your chances of getting the influenza if you get your vaccine.”
Dr. Terk said there are many myths about influenza and even more about vaccines. “It’s important for everybody to realize that you cannot get sick with the disease from the vaccine so it should not dissuade you from getting the vaccine believing you will get sick,” he said.
To learn more about receiving the vaccine for influenza, please talk to your pediatrician.
“Most years influenza extends all the way into March and sometimes early April so that’s why it’s now recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that physicians continue to vaccinate through the early spring,” Dr. Terk said. “Yes we’re in the middle of the influenza season right now but you are going to be at a significant risk later on, so if you haven’t gotten it and you can still get your flu vaccine be sure and get it.”

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