For the past month or more there has been widespread Flu activity throughout Atlanta, Georgia and the U.S. Here are some Flu updates from PPP:
Flu (the illness)
In adults, adolescents and older children typical symptoms of Flu are high fevers, muscle aches and feeling ‘wiped out.’ Infants and younger children may have fevers, lethargy, fussiness and decreased appetite. For most healthy children, Flu resolves in 5-7 days without any lingering effects. Young children (less than 2 years old) and those with chronic health conditions (like Asthma) are more likely to have complications from the Flu, including hospitalizations and death. Every year, 50-150 children die from the Flu in the U.S.
Flu (the vaccine)
Each season PPP gives over 5000 doses of Flu vaccine, starting as soon as we receive the vaccine in late summer. Children vaccinated in late summer or fall remain protected through the end of the Flu season in the following spring. The Flu strains in the vaccine change each year to try to match the Flu strains that are predicted to be circulating in the U.S. Some years there is a better match between the vaccine strains and the circulating strains, while some years the match is not as good. It is too early to know how effective the vaccine is this Flu season, but regardless of the match the Flu vaccine lowers the risk of complications from the Flu, including hospitalization and death. PPP recommends Flu vaccine for EVERYONE 6 months and older.
Flu (the test)
During Flu season, the diagnosis of Flu is typically made based on symptoms and the physical exam. A test is NOT necessary to diagnose Flu. The rapid test for Flu (collected by a nasal swab) may be ordered by the physician if it will impact further testing or treatment (for example, a positive Flu test in a 6-month-old with high fevers will confirm the diagnosis and make further tests for bacteria unnecessary). The rapid flu test is accurate 60-70% of the time (compared to 95% for the rapid Strep test), so the test is used infrequently at PPP.
Flu (the treatment)
Influenza is a virus, so antibiotics are not an effective treatment. Tamiflu is an anti-viral medication that may reduce the duration of Flu by 24-36 hours if started within the first 1-2 days of the illness. Tamiflu is only recommended for children at high risk for the complications from the Flu: children less than 2 years old and children with chronic health problems like Asthma. Tamiflu can have significant side effects, including vomiting and diarrhea. Tamiflu can also be used to prevent Flu if a family member has been diagnosed with Flu, but this use in children is restricted to those at high risk of complications. The physicians at PPP prescribe Tamiflu infrequently and reserve it for children at high risk of complications.