Flu season on track to be one of the worst in decades, as cases continue to rise

Mark Abrams
January 09, 2020 - 3:39 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The number of flu cases showing up in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms has spiked in recent weeks.

Flu activity is usually the highest between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Medical officials predict this season so far is on track to be as severe as the 2017-2018 flu season, which was the deadliest in more than four decades.

So far this season, at least 2,900 people in the U.S. are estimated to have died of the flu, according to the CDC. That's 800 more deaths than estimated the previous week.

Flu cases and hospitalizations because of the flu have also risen sharply since the season began in October. The CDC estimates there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses and 55,000 hospitalizations.

The most recent data from the CDC found high rates of flu activity in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Dr. Steven Shapiro, chairman of pediatrics at Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health and a practicing pediatrician, said the flu has struck hard in our communities. 

“The average child is going to be sick for four, five or six days, is going to have a runny nose, sore throat. Fever will be very, very prevalent and they just don't feel well,” he explained.

There are also viral infections popping up, so parents should not hesitate to take their child to the doctor, especially if a fever of more than 100 degrees persists beyond two days.

“When I see a child that comes in with a fever and a non-specific viral upper respiratory illness, I'm just making sure that I don't hear any wheezing, that I don't hear pneumonia, that I don't see an ear infection, that I don't have a concomitant strep throat,” he added.

This flu season has been particularly deadly for children, with 27 deaths reported through Dec. 28. That's the highest number of deaths at this point in the season since the CDC started keeping track 17 years ago.

If your child has a fever, Shapiro said to keep him or her home from school and try to make them comfortable.

“Common sense prevails here: plenty to drink, fever control, symptomatic comfort is about the best that you can do for the season,” he said.

KYW Newsradio’s medical editor Dr. Brian McDonough echoed Shapiro’s advice, adding there are particular symptoms to look out for that confirm signs of the flu.

“These people have fever, they have a cough, they have a sore throat. But the big thing they have is muscle aches and fatigue,” he said. “We always talk about how there's viral infections and there's the flu. Well, when you get this constellation, you almost feel like a truck hit you, that kind of feeling. That's when we really get worried about the flu.”

The flu season is just picking up, so if you haven’t already, McDonough advises to get your flu shot — now.

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CNN Wire contributed to this report.

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