More Than 700 Children Test Positive for Flu in One Week at Cook Children’s Medical Center
An unusual and even deadly flu season continues to impact the area's children.
Last week (Dec. 22-Dec.28, 2019) at Cook Children's Medical Center, 1,457 children tested for the flu. Five hundred forty-six patients tested positive for Influenza B, and 169 more were positive for Influenza A. Another 258 kids tested positive for RSV. The report is only for those tested at the medical center and does not include the dozens of primary care offices at Cook Children's.
Already this flu season, two pediatric flu deaths in Tarrant County have been confirmed. The first death in early December was the first reported pediatric flu death in Tarrant County since 2015.
Flu B typically follows Flu A and is usually found at much lower levels. What makes this season unusual is that Flu B appeared first and in much higher numbers than Flu A. During the week of Dec. 23, 2018, 1,141 children were tested for the flu at the medical center with 484 kids testing positive for Influenza A and none for Influenza B.
Doctors at Cook Children's say Flu B causes the same general symptoms as Flu A – fever, upper respiratory symptoms and body aches. Generally, Flu B seems to be a little less severe but should still be taken seriously.
Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s, says it’s hard to predict what’s next when it comes to the flu season. But normally, pediatricians in the area expect to see an uptick in flu a couple of weeks after kids go back to school following their winter break.
“The kids are bringing their germs with them and coming in contact with many other kids once they are at back at school,” Dr. Whitworth said. “It’s so important to stress good hygiene such as handwashing and covering your cough. And, I can’t stress enough to keep your child home if they are sick to prevent other children from getting the flu too.”
Dr. Whitworth said kids should stay home until at least 24 hours after their fever has gone away without the help of fever-reducing medicine. But if your child is still feeling the side effects of the flu even after the fever has gone away, she suggests they stay home for another day or so.
With so many children sick right now, Cook Children’s is currently under a “Facility Alert” due to an extremely high census. Between the Emergency Department and Urgent Care Centers, staff is seeing an average of more than 1,200 kids per day.
“If your child is over 3 months old and has a fever, even a high one, it’s OK to see your pediatrician as long as they are breathing comfortably and drinking well,” said Diane Arnaout, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Forest Park. “If your child has mild wheezing, we can give breathing treatments in the primary care offices. If you’re not sure whether your child’s issue is an emergency, our nurses can talk to you over the phone about symptoms and help you decide between the ER, urgent care and a primary care visit.”
Other quick facts about Flu B include:
- Flu B is spread via droplets like Flu A, so washing hands and covering coughs are essential to prevention.
- The vaccines contain Flu A and Flu B strains.
- Even if you get flu in the season where you get the flu vaccine, it's not for nothing. It may prevent more serious illness and complications as well.
- Treatment with Tamiflu is an option. Families and doctors must weigh the benefits vs. side effects. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions.
- Secondary infections (such as pneumonia) can occur after any strain of the flu. So be on the lookout for increasing fever or recurrence of symptoms after your child has begun to recover.