H1N1 Spreading, Striking Young Adults

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thirty five states are affected by the flu with high flu activity expected to continue for several weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Patients between the ages of 18 and 64 have accounted for about 61 percent of the 2,622 flu-related hospitalizations nationwide, said Children’s National Health System infectious disease specialist David Hyun, MD.

“This is unusual because traditionally the majority of flu hospitalizations occur in the 65 or older age group. A similar pattern was observed back in 2009 when the H1N1 (frequently referred to as the pandemic influenza) first circulated,” Dr. Hyun said.

In 2009, the virus infected about 61 million people, resulting in approximately 12,470 deaths, according to the CDC.

Is this flu season significantly different than past seasons?

So far based on the most recent data released on Friday, it appears we are in line with an average flu season, and perhaps even less severe if we just look at the pediatric population” Dr. Hyun said. “The pediatric mortality attributable to flu has actually been lower to date compared to last year's season. The percentage of visits for influenza-like illness graph also suggests that, as a nation, the flu may have already peaked. Of course national data doesn't necessarily reflect local or regional data as some states or regions had a later start for the flu season and therefore will have a later end date.

Flu shots remain best defense against many strains

“About 97 percent of this year's flu strains have been identified as H1N1 as well and I think that's what's grabbing the media's imagination. But just because it's the same strain as the 2009 pandemic doesn't mean that we are necessarily in for the same degree of widespread and severe flu season as we had back then. For one thing, all flu vaccines used for this season contained protection for the same H1N1 strain, so the vaccines are very well matched.”

Vaccination appears to lower your chance of getting the flu, but if you do contract a strain covered by the vaccine, it appears that the symptoms are milder. 

When should parents seek medical care?

“The best advice I can give for parents is just the same as any other year: it's not too late to get your children vaccinated (especially if their children are at higher risk for flu complications due to underlying conditions) and emphasize good hand washing to prevent transmission,” Dr. Hyun said. “They should contact their pediatrician if their child exhibits flu-like symptoms such as fevers with body aches, headaches, and/or upper respiratory symptoms.” 

Differences in flu, cold, and H1N1 symptoms:

Symptoms ColdFluH1N1
FeverRareCommonCommon, often w/ temp. of 100+ degrees F
CoughingMild hacking, mucus-producingDry, hackingDry, hacking
AchesSlight aches,painsModerate body achesSevere aches, pains
Stuffy noseCommonRunny nose is presentNot common
ChillsNot commonFairly commonVery common
TirednessFairly mildMild to moderateVery common
SneezingCommonCommonNot common
Symptom onsetDevelop over a few daysLasts 4-7 daysRapid, within 3-6 hours; lasts 4-7 days
HeadacheSometimesFairly commonVery common
Chest discomfortMild to moderateModerateOften severe

*Information found in this graphic comes from the CDC and Staywell.

Parents should also:

  • Wash your hands often. Wash hands after sneezing, following a bathroom visit, or before handling and preparing food.
  • Stay home if you feel sick and keep your kids home if they don’t feel well. People who ignore symptoms and return to work or school before getting fully better help spread the viruses.
  • Watch for signs of dehydration in your children as well as coughing, chills, and fatigue.
  • Avoid crowded places to help curb the spread of the flu

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