Influenza Cases on the Rise at Children's Medical Center

December 12, 2012

The number of influenza cases seen at Children’s Medical Center (www.childrens.com) has been steadily rising the past few weeks, a trend that likely will continue, and doctors are recommending that parents get vaccinations for themselves and their children to ward off the illness.
 
This year’s season started earlier than normal, experts said. Children’s has already seen at least 150 patients who tested positive for the flu since Nov. 10, compared to just one case recorded as of this time last year.

“I am pretty confident that we’re going to see an uptick in the number of flu cases over the next several weeks,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, division director of Children’s Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Program. “How robust the season is going to be, we still don’t know yet. But I would say over the next four to six weeks, or eight weeks, we’re going to see a lot of flu activity.”

Families can best protect themselves and their children by getting flu vaccines, Kahn said. Children 6 months of age and older are eligible for the vaccination. It’s not too late to get immunized, he said.

“It usually takes one to two weeks for a flu vaccine to elicit protective immunity, so even if you get immunized today, you’re going to protect yourself for a majority of the flu season,” Kahn said.

The number of patients testing positive for the flu at Children’s shows an obvious upward trend:

  • Nov. 10-16: Seven positive tests

  • Nov. 17-23: 23 positive tests

  • Nov. 24-30: 32 positive tests

  • Dec. 1-6: 96 positive tests

Kahn, also a professor of pediatrics and microbiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said this is the earliest start of the flu season in about 10 years. The reasons for that are unknown, he said.

So far, doctors at Children’s are seeing a mix of both Type A and Type B flu cases.

“One thing we know about influenza is that it’s unpredictable,” said Dr. Christopher Doern, Children’s medical director of microbiology and an assistant professor of pathology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “The one thing that has been consistent is once it starts going up, that trend continues for the course of the respiratory virus season. That’s likely to continue throughout the duration of the winter.”

The flu spreads very rapidly in close quarters and in homes, Kahn said. Symptoms include high fever that shows up very rapidly, body aches, cough, congestion, difficulty breathing and other respiratory symptoms.

“By getting a flu vaccine, you’re not only protecting yourself, but the people you live with,” particularly vulnerable people such as infants, the elderly and children with asthma, Kahn said.

About Children’s Medical Center

The private, not-for-profit Children's Medical Center is the fifth-largest pediatric healthcare provider in the country, with 559 licensed beds, two full-service campuses and 10 outpatient sites. Children’s was the state’s first pediatric hospital to achieve Level 1 Trauma status and is the only pediatric teaching facility in North Texas, affiliated with UT Southwestern Medical Center. For more information, please visit www.childrens.com.