Pediatric flu concerns: why is the flu killing kids?

The Chief of Pediatrics at Swedish Hospital helps explain why this year's flu is so dangerous for children.

The flu season is far from over and it's already claimed the lives of 30 children. So what are the most important symptoms for parents to look out for?

"If your child is not acting normally, not interacting with you like they normally would, seems very sleepy or very irritable -- those are all reasons to get checked out right away," says Dr. Elizabeth Meade, Chief of Pediatrics at Swedish Hospital.

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Dr. Meade says children under the age of five, and especially under the age of two are at a high risk for severe complications. According to the CDC, one specific strain of the flu, influenza A (H3N2), has been highly active and the most resistant to the flu shot. But what makes the flu deadly?

"Pneumonia is one complication we see. People can also get something called sepsis, which is an overwhelming infection of the body that can affect all different organ systems: brain, heart, liver - just depending on how sick the person is."

And a sick person's condition can change very quickly.

"I think what's so scary for people this year is to see people who are totally healthy, right? Marathon runners and healthy kids were actually dying within a day or two of getting sick. And the reality is, we see this every year that's why we’re are so intentional about making sure they get their flu shots."

Dr. Meade says the flu season can last through May and reminds people that it's never too late to get your flu shot.

"People should know it takes about two weeks to become effective, so you still have that window where you could get sick but it's really the best we have to protect ourselves. Again, it really diminishes that risk of getting severely ill or dying from influenza," explains Meade.

She also encourages people to step up their routine when it comes to hygiene.

"Anything you can wash with soap and water - it's the best way to kill germs. Hard surfaces are the place they tend to live the longest. So door knobs, countertops those sorts of things." says Dr. Meade.

So what does flu activity look like in the US? According to the CDC's weekly flu map, sickness is widespread across the continental US. The CDC is tracking current data for the 2017-2018 flu season. The largest spike is happening now, less than halfway through the flu season.

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