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Protecting against the flu

New research shows young children more at risk to die from flu

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Jessica Bourque - jbourque@shawmedia.com)
Molly Passerman, 5, receives her annual flu shot at Morris Hospital’s Minooka Healthcare Center, located at the Ridge Road Campus. Laura, Molly's mother, said the girls have gotten their flu shots every year.

MORRIS – With handfuls of stickers and a promise from mom to buy them “special treats,” sisters Molly and Cora Passerman left the doctor’s office smiling.

“We’ve gotten flu shots every year,” said Laura Passerman, the girls’ mother, after her daughters received a flu vaccine. “We just want to keep them safe and prevent any serious sickness.”

New research would suggest that Passerman is right to get her kids vaccinated, even if they are perfectly healthy.

A study published Monday by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found 830 children died of flu complications between October 2004 and September 2012. Of the 794 children who died with a known medical history, 43 percent had no high-risk medical conditions.

One-third of the 830 children died within three days of developing symptoms, showing how quickly the flu can become life-threatening to kids.

More than one-third of the children died at home, on the way to the hospital or in the emergency room.

Pneumonia was the deadliest complication.

“Young children, the elderly, patients with chronic illness and pregnant women are the most at risk,” said Gail Steele, infection preventionist at Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers.

Morris Hospital had its first flu case a few weeks ago, Steele said, which is earlier than last year’s first case in late November. Morris Hospital saw last year’s flu season peak in December, around Christmas, with more than 200 cases, Steele said.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services finds that each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and an average of 36,000 people die due to flu-related complications.

Experts agree vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu.

A recent study from the CDC and Vanderbilt University found that vaccination reduced the risk of flu-related hospitalization by 71.4 percent among all adults and 76.8 percent among those age 50 and older during the 2011-2012 flu season.

“The myth about vaccinating is that getting the shot will give you the flu,” said Judy Bailey, director of Nursing at Grundy County Health Department. “The vaccine is dead virus. It cannot cause illness.”

Bailey said there was a live virus vaccination that caused illness several years ago.

“People still remember those vaccinations and are scared,” Bailey said.

Vaccines change each year based on analysis and predictions from disease prevention agencies throughout the world. The collective agencies identify the three most dangerous flu strands and supply the appropriate vaccines.

Manufacturers have projected they will produce between 135 million and 139 million doses of vaccine for use in the United States during the 2013-2014 flu season, according to the CDC.

“Viruses are pretty sneaky,” Steele said. “That’s why it’s tricky to get the right vaccine. Sometimes the CDC is right on with its predictions and other times, not quite.”

Flu symptoms to watch for include high fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, runny nose, sore throat and nausea.

“What’s commonly called ‘the stomach flu’ is actually gastrointestinitis, not influenza – totally different virus,” Steele said. “It gets confusing because it’s a bit of a misnomer.”

The CDC states that influenza is a respiratory, and not an intestinal, illness and will typically cause coughing, sore throat and runny nose, unlike the stomach flu.

“If you see the symptoms, come in and get an antiviral,” Steele said. “You want to catch it early to avoid developing complications and keep from spreading to others.”

Get VaccinatedMorris Hospital and Healthcare Centers• Healthcare centers in Braidwood, Channahon, Dwight, Gardner, Marseilles, Minooka and Newark administer vaccinations for $30. Shots are available at these facilities during regular hours; no appointment is required. The Morris Hospital healthcare centers office hours vary by location. For office hours, visit www.morrishospital.org/healthcarecenters

Grundy County Health Department• Free vaccinations for children 6 months to 18 years who are residents of Grundy County with a $20 suggested donation.• Adult vaccinations are $25.• Medicare and Medicaid covers vaccination cost for all elderly patients. The health department offers higher-dose shots for those over age 65.• The health department is located at 1320 Union St. in Morris and is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. No appointment is required.

Everyday flu prevention• Avoid close contact with sick people• Wash your hands often with soap and water• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands• If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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