January 11, 2013
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Facts About The Flu
Things To Know About The Flu
The term "flu" is short for influenza, an acute respiratory infection caused by the influenza A or B virus. Influenza affects the upper and lower respiratory tracts, causing symptoms such as runny nose, cough, sore throat, high fever, fatigue, chills, headache and body ache; however, young children can also have gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
On physical exam the patient is ill-appearing, but the lung examination is usually unremarkable. Complications usually are associated with children under 5 years of age, and they include secondary infections of the middle ears (otitis media), sinuses (sinusitis), and lungs (bronchitis, pneumonia).
Influenza usually presents in the winter months and is highly contagious. The virus is transmitted by breathing in secretions from an infected individual who coughed, sneezed, or was even talking in close proximity. As it is a virus, it does not respond to antibiotic therapy. The acute illness lasts for several days, but the cough and fatigue may last for weeks.
Influenza is believed to affect 20% of children and 5% of adults worldwide every year. Because there are small mutations in the proteins that make up the virus, an infected individual will not necessarily have future immunity and new vaccines are needed each flu season. Current recommendations are that all individuals 6 months and older should get vaccinated for influenza. There are several vaccine choices available, but in the Pediatric population most children receive either the inactive (not live) intramuscular injection or the live attenuated (weakened) intranasal vaccine. The intranasal vaccine may be slightly more effective at covering a broader strain of the virus.
Some antiviral medications are available for the Pediatric population. Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) was recently approved for use in infants down to 2 weeks of age, and can be used for prophylaxis after close family contact has been identified. It can also be used for treatment and is most effective if started with 48 hours of onset of symptoms
There is a website you can check for updated info on where the vaccine is available in your area. www.flu.gov
Mark C. Garabedian, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Dr. Garabedian received his medical degree from New York Medical College and completed his residency in Pediatrics at North Shore University Hospital and Cornell University Medical Center. He is board certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prior to joining Bon Secours Medical Group, Dr. Garabedian was in private practice in Southampton, New York, for 16 years. He is now working with Hanover Pediatrics , a Bon Secours practice.
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