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Dec 4, 2018 9:45 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

High Number of Flu Cases Reported Early In Season

Free flu shots are available at pharmacies with insurance. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Dec 4, 2018 2:40 PM

Flu season arrived earlier than usual this year, as local pediatric offices report high numbers of flu cases before the season’s peak.

Southampton Pediatrics, a location of Stony Brook Children’s Services in Hampton Bays and Southampton, reported on December 3 that physicians there have treated 70 cases of the flu since September 1.

“It’s a high number for this period of time,” said Laura VandeMark-Lynch, an administrator at Southampton Pediatrics. “It’s very unusual for us to see this many kids coming in with symptoms and actually coming out positive.”

Dr. Nadia Persheff, a physician whose practice, Hampton Pediatrics, is in Southampton, said that she treated around 20 cases of the flu by the end of October, sometimes three or four cases per day. “In my 23 years of experience, I’ve seen maybe three cases before December 1,” she said. “I started seeing the flu on October 4 this year—so very, very early.”

She added that she had spoken to other pediatricians and emergency rooms in the area, and said they were seeing the same incidence.

The peaks of flu season typically occur during Christmas break and around Presidents Day in February, and the season usually ends in April.

On December 3, her office reported 28 cases of the flu. However, Dr. Persheff said that number may be inaccurate for a few reasons. She said she does not report a flu diagnosis in every case—it depends on the codes that were filed—and some patients already may have been to a walk-in clinic or an emergency room, where they were first diagnosed.

“Nobody has an idea why it happens. It just is what it is. Sometimes it’s just a new strain that comes through and just spreads like wildfire,” Dr. Persheff said, adding that while the flu does not discriminate, it is mostly children who spread it throughout the community.

To refrain from getting the viral infection, Dr. Persheff recommends the same thing to all of her patients: get a flu vaccine. She said that it does not prevent every single case of flu, but if a person was to still get the flu after receiving the vaccine, their symptoms would typically be more mild—one or two days of fever and cough, compared to, without the vaccine, five to seven days of a higher fever, and a higher risk of subsequent pneumonia, heart attack in people over 40 years old, and even death.

Those at higher risk of contracting flu complications include children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions including asthma, heart disease, and kidney and liver disorders, among others.

“Fewer people are getting their flu shots than ever,” Dr. Persheff said. “If you take a whole vaccine chart and the flu shot, the flu shot prevents more hospitalizations, illnesses and deaths than the entire vaccine chart. It’s not perfect, but it’s your best defense.”

The physician mentioned another alarming bacterial infection that affects people with the flu: MRSA—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—which is a type of staph infection resistant to commonly used antibiotics. MRSA can be life-threatening in its most severe form and is sometimes referred to as the “super bug.”

Dr. Persheff added that the worst cases of flu at her pediatric office have resulted in kids being hospitalized for pneumonia.

“Kids can get the flu and get a fever from the flu, but if the fever goes away and then comes back, that’s when we get worried,” she said, because the kids at that point are more likely to get a secondary bacterial infection.

Pharmacies like Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS offer free walk-in flu shots with insurance.

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