When a 17-year-old Minnesota girl died from flu complications, the case grabbed attention. But officials say most healthy people rebound just fine after some rest and time.
Rest and time are part of the prescription at Nemours A.I. du Pont Hospital for Children where doctors are busy caring for an unusually high number of kids with flu.
“Last year at this time, we had really about a tenth of the flu that we are seeing now at this time. It’s come earlier and much harder,” said Jay Greenspan, chairman of pediatrics.
Most of the children are generally healthy and have been sent home to recover with a little extra attention from mom and dad, he said.
It’s rare for the flu to become a more serious infection such as pneumonia, Greenspan said. For most cases, doctors at Nemours counsel parents to make sure their child gets plenty of rest and fluids.
“If they are not drinking well, difficult to arouse, or not wetting their diaper or not urinating enough because they may be dehydrated, symptoms like that show they are not handling the flu well, and then we’d want to see them in the emergency room,” Greenspan said.
Tamiflu is a brand of antiviral treatment that can help — as long as it is given very early in the course of an illness.
“It’s really marginal how well it works,” Greenspan said. “In adults, it might cut down a half a day, or even a day of symptoms, we don’t know the data really in kids.”
Because of that uncertainty, Greenspan said, pediatricians often reserve antiviral drug treatment for children with the highest-risk: patients younger than 2 or children with a chronic illness such as asthma or a seizure disorder that can complicate flu.
“We don’t give it to everybody,” Greenspan said.
Pennsylvania’s Physician General Carrie DeLone said a vaccine is still the best protection — and, with many weeks of flu season still ahead, it’s not too late to get that flu shot.
Flu-related deaths in Pennsylvania and Delaware this season are nearly all older adults who had pre-existing health concerns such as heart disease or diabetes.
And while many employees push themselves to soldier through a day at work, it’s not a good idea.
“We have a lot of heroes out there who want to come to work and get their job done, but in doing so you are ultimately exposing other and reducing productivity in the long run,” said Paul Silverman, associate deputy director at the Delaware Division of Public Health.
New Jersey’s state epidemiologist Tina Tan said the flu — type A H3N2 strain — that has sickened most people this season can cause more severe illness.
“Cover your cough. Cover your sneeze. Use tissues,” advises Tan.
And throw that used tissue away quickly, then wash your hands with soap and water if it’s available,” officials advise. If not, use an alcohol hand sanitizer.