October means it’s time for autumn leaves, pumpkins, and festivals, but also the potential onset of the 2015-16 influenza season.
As of Oct. 1, two positive cases have been documented by Northern Hospital of Surry County; one at the hospital and one at its pediatric clinic. Most seasonal flu activity occurs annually between October and May, peaking between December and February.
To protect against the flu, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older, and recommends getting vaccinated in early October or before if the vaccine is available.
Dr. Melinda Darling, pediatrician at Northern Medical Group – Pediatrics, encourages families to practice healthy habits this fall and winter season in order to prevent flu and respiratory syncytial virus infections – both of which can be particularly harmful to children and infants. An estimated 200 children tested positive at the pediatric clinic between October and March of 2014-15.
“The flu virus is more dangerous to children than the common cold. Children diagnosed with flu often need medical care, especially those younger than 5 years of age. Children with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are especially at high risk,” said Darling.
According to the CDC, an average of 20,000 children under age 5 are hospitalized each year due to complications from the flu, and a reported 146 flu-related pediatric deaths occurred nationwide during the 2014-2015 season.
The CDC recommends the following tips for all ages to protect yourself and those around you as we prepare for the upcoming flu season.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water.
• Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
• Refrain from close contact with sick people.
• Try not to touch your face (especially your eyes, nose and mouth) if your hands are unclean.
• Stay at home if you’re not feeling well. If you have a fever, remain at home for a minimum of 24 hours after you are fever free, unless you’re leaving home to seek medical care
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects to keep your home free of germs.
• Ensure that everyone in your family who is over six months of age gets the flu vaccine.
Northern Medical Group—Pediatrics will begin its annual flu shot clinics on Oct. 6. Current patients of NMG—Pediatrics should call the office at 336-789-6267 to schedule their appointment. The standard dose quadrivalent vaccine is being given at the pediatric practice this flu season. The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against four flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
Flu shots are also widely available now at most area primary care physician offices and pharmacies.