JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As flu season rages on, Wolfson Children’s Hospital reported a ten-fold increase in flu diagnoses compared to this time last year.
According to a hospital representative, 427 children have been diagnosed with the flu from the start of flu season in October 2017 to February 6, 2018. During the same time period the year before, 42 children had been diagnosed with the flu in the hospital’s emergency department.
Not all patients diagnosed with the flu needed to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. This flu season, 39 people have been admitted to Wolfson due to the flu. At this time last year, 12 people had been admitted.
Those numbers are only for Wolfson Children’s Emergency Center in downtown Jacksonville on the main hospital campus and Wolfson Children’s Hospital itself. Numbers for Wolfson Children’s Emergency Centers at the Town Center, Baptist Clay and Baptist North weren’t immediately available.
“This is probably one of the worst flu season’s we have seen in a long time,” Dr. Mobeen Rathore, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Wolfson, said. “The hospital is full. I mean, it’s winter anyway we get lots of infections, viral infections. But you’re also seeing a good number of influenza cases that are being admitted.”
In Florida, five children have died from the flu. All of them were unvaccinated, according to the Florida Department of Health. More than 50 children have died nationwide from the flu, according to the CDC.
The CDC also reported the predominant flu strain this year is H3N2, which Dr. Rathore said is associated with more severe illness.
“A lot children and adults have died,” he said. “But it can also cause severe pneumonia, it can cause patients who get influenza to be incapacitated, but usually it’s the secondary bacterial infections that may occur once you have influenza infection that can cause some severe illness.”
Because H3N2 isn’t the only strain going around, people could, in theory, get the flu more than once. But Dr. Rathore said that would be rare.
“It’s possible that if they get Flu A then they can get Flu B, but I can tell you that’s extremely unlikely,” he said.
While it’s undoubtedly concerning to know the flu can have such serious, potentially deadly outcomes, Dr. Rathore urges parents to consult a doctor first before taking children to the hospital.
“I think the most important thing is to contact your physician first, contact your pediatrician, and ask them,” he said. “And they can advise you whether you should take the child to the hospital or not.”
Rathore recommended people get the flu vaccine even though it’s less effective than years past. He said the vaccine may lesson symptoms if you do get the flu.
He also encouraged people to stay home from work or school if they have flu-like symptoms, cough or sneeze into elbows instead of hands and wash hands frequently.