Keeping your kids safe during this deadly flu season

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 12:18 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The two-state region is seeing an unusually high number of flu and respiratory syncytial virus cases this year, even as COVID appears to be on a decline.

In fact, South Carolina – which has already seen its first child flu death of the season – and the District of Columbia are the places in the U.S. hit hardest by flu right now, with a “very high” level of spread.

And with a rate labeled “high,” Georgia isn’t far behind, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In North Augusta, pediatrician Dr. John Allen is seeing the effects of the outbreak, which is overwhelming his office.

“We might see 156 patients on a Monday. We’ll come in, we’ll say, oh, the schedule is pretty open, and then suddenly it’s really full,” said Allen.

Doctors are seeing higher numbers of influenza A than influenza B.

Latest flu activity map from the CDC
Latest flu activity map from the CDC(Contributed)

“Some of them will have vomiting and diarrhea. Some of them will have sore throats. But mainly, it’s the fever, the chills, and the body aches that set it apart from other illnesses,” Allen said.

Flu symptoms can vary from person to person, and can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

Alen and other doctors say they’re constantly writing notes to ensure children fully recover before returning to school.

“When they have the flu, they’re going to miss three or four days of school. They need to be free of fever for at least 24 hours before they go back to school. So we’re writing a lot of those. I’m usually keeping them out Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” Allen said.

While the flu can circulate any time of year, for surveillance purposes, the season begins Oct. 1.

Although we’re early in the flu season, there’s been widespread flu activity since the first week in both South Carolina and Georgia, health officials say.

“This suggests we could have a severe flu season, and we all must take actions to protect ourselves and others,” said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

South Carolina’s first pediatric flu death of the season was reported Monday in the Midlands, and North Carolina on Wednesday reported its first child flu death since February 2020.

People 65 and over, young children and people with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of complications from the flu, Bell said, but complications can unpredictably occur even among young and previously healthy people.

The best protection against the illness is the flu shot, and both South Carolina and Georgia health officials recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older who is eligible get vaccinated.

If your child is sick, be sure to make their doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. Doctors say as flu cases continue to rise, appointments are being made daily.

If you want to keep yourself and your children safe from the flu, doctors strongly recommend you get the flu shot. You may still catch the flu, but the case should be milder if you’ve had a shot.