Devastating flu season for children

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105 flu-related child deaths reported at season's mid-point

KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Roughly three more months remain in what’s been a rather devastating flu season.

Influenza is widespread in almost all of the U.S. including in Pennsylvania. The flu is taking a particularly steep toll on children.

The CDC reports at this point of the flu season, we’ve seen the most child deaths in a decade. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller spoke with a Kingston pediatrician about what’s making this flu season so dangerous and what parents can do to reduce the risk.

Audrea Welles of Hunlock Creek brought her 15-month-old daughter to PAK Pediatrics on Tuesday because of a nagging ear infection. But it’s not ear infections that have been keeping Pediatrician Jeffery Kile, MD really busy lately.

“It seems like every child almost coming through the door with a fever and body aches and congestion is flu,” he said.

The weekly CDC report issued February 21 reveals 105 children have died from the flu this season; the most at this point in a season since 2009.

Dr. Kile said, “It’s high and it’s a little scary because so many children are being attacked by flu this year and it’s really been a novel year in that we’re seeing a lot of influenza type B.”

Influenza B strain is particularly severe for children. Dr. Kile explained that it’s so dangerous because it arrived early and it’s persisting.

“So typically people don’t experience flu B early and so their immune systems just aren’t prepped for it,” he said.

The good news is that this year’s flu vaccine is proving to be fairly protective for kids. The CDC says it’s 55 percent effective.

Note: The 15-month-old child seen in these photos does not have flu and had her flu shot this season.

So far, so good for Annaliyah who already got her flu shot. Ms. Welles said, “I think it’s really important especially because you know it goes around so quick and you can carry it for weeks and not even know it.”

Dr. Kile says it’s still not too late for you or your child to get a flu shot but get it sooner rather than later. And if your child has flu like symptoms, don’t delay treatment.

He added, “And then the most important thing too is that if you have a fever and a cough and stuffy nose you should probably stay home.”

Dr. Kile also recommends teaching kids to frequently wash their hands, keep their hands away from their face, and cough or sneeze into the crook of their arm.

Besides the 105 child flu deaths, the CDC reports 16,000 flu deaths and 29 million infections to date this flu season.

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