Every year we're told to take precautions against contracting the flu and warned of the dangerous spread of the virus, but this year the warnings come with a heavy undertone. The virus is hitting our kids especially hard and some are dying.

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The CDC reports that since the current flu season began, 32 children have died from the virus, with five pediatric deaths reported for the week ending January 4, the highest number of pediatric flu deaths since 2003 when the CDC began tracking deaths of children from the flu, according to CNN.

New York State has activated its Flu Tracker which tracks laboratory-confirmed influenza cases and at the time of this publication, Central New York has 1,044 confirmed cases of the flu. During the 2019 flu season, Broome County saw 2,344 cases of the flu, but only 54 of those cases were confirmed to be Influenza B. This flu season has already seen reports of 467 cases of the same exact same strain.

Dr. Sean Holdredge of the Lourdes Pediatric Group told WBNG, "The flu will kill people. It's not like the common cold, it's not like everybody gets the flu and survives, because a lot of people don't."  Dr. Holdredge went on to say, "The research says that kids who are vaccinated and get sick are much less likely to be hospitalized and have bad outcomes, versus the kids who are not vaccinated and still end up with the flu."

Why are our children coming down with the flu in alarming numbers this year? Dr. Narula explained to CBS News, "The word we use about the flu is unpredictable, and it's been unpredictable. Because we've seen a shift in the predominant strain which is usually influenza A. This year it's influenza B. That hasn't happened since the 1992-1993 flu season. And we know that influenza B tends to affect children more. They tend to have more severe reaction to influenza B."

According to the CDC, these are the symptoms of the flu:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills, but not everyone who has the flu will get a fever.
  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than it is in adults.

Most people who come down with the flu will begin to feel better within a couple of days to two weeks, but for those who develop complications from flu such as pneumonia, the outcome can be deadly. Those at the highest risk for complications from the flu include people over the age of 65, people of any age who have a history of chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes, pregnant women and kids under the age of five, especially children who are under the age of two.

The CDC reports that flu symptoms come on suddenly rather than gradually as they do with illnesses such as the common cold. If you or your child is sick, it isn't recommended that you wait for symptoms to subside but instead to seek immediate medical care in an effort to err on the side of caution.

Parents and caregivers who have questions about Influenza B and how to protect the children in their charge are invited to view this family flu guide which has been distributed by the CDC. If you have questions about the flu virus and don't know where to turn, you can call the CDC anytime at 800-232-4636.