Flu Season: Children at Higher Risk This Year
This flu season, children appear to be at higher risk. One of the reasons? This year’s flu vaccine is “not a very good match” for a common strain of the flu that’s especially tough on children, according to the nation’s top infectious disease doctor.
“It’s not a very good match for B/Victoria,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, referring to the strain. “It’s not an awful match, but it’s not a very good match.”
Children are particularly susceptible to influenza B/Victoria.
Fauci said even though the match for B/Victoria isn’t great, a flu shot can still save your child’s life.
That’s because the vaccine is a 58% match for B/Victoria, according to CDC
data released last week. That means if your child is exposed to B/Victoria, there’s a 58% chance that their flu shot will be well matched to protect against it.
There’s a 42% chance that the vaccine won’t be well-matched for B/Victoria, so the shot won’t do a great job of keeping them from getting the flu. But it could help protect them from getting so sick that they develop life-threatening complications, Fauci said. In addition, the shot will likely prevent infection with the other major strain of the flu that’s out there right now. The vaccine is a “a really good match” for that strain, called H1N1.
The final assessment about how effective the flu vaccine was won’t be available until the season has ended. Vaccine mismatches, as is happening this year with B/Victoria, are not unusual. Scientists try to match the vaccine to what is making people sick, but it’s difficult. Every spring, they try to predict what strains will be out the following flu season, which starts in October. But to some extent, it’s a bit of a guessing game.
What Can You Do?
Flu symptoms usually appear 1-4 days after exposure and leave you most contagious in the first 3-4 days after illness begins. Otherwise healthy people are able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. You can expect for your child to be home with you for up to 7 days to fully recover before returning to school. Sending your child back to school too soon can leave them vulnerable to other illnesses and infect others with the virus.
Flu-like symptoms include:
- Fever (100.4 degrees F. or higher) or feverish with chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- A feeling of being very tired
- Vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
Teach your children how to avoid getting the flu and how to protect others from becoming infected.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when sick.
- Wash hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or by coughing into the inside of the elbow. Wash hands after blowing the nose or coughing into a tissue, and dispose of tissues after use.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.