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Alert: Flu is Here!

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I am writing this with trepidation as I have just seen my first 3 cases of Influenza A! Does this mean that we have a long winter flu season ahead, or does it mean it will come early and leave early?  I only wish that I had the crystal ball that would/could predict this, but what I do know for a fact, flu is not fun!!

These first 3 patients, all from the same family, really did not “look like the typical influenza” that I think of when we start seeing flu.  In this family of five, only the father had already received the flu vaccine, and as of now, he is the only one in the family not to get sick.  (I am happy to report that I too got my flu shot about 2 weeks ago, hooray!)

When this 5 year old girl came to the office with a 2 day history of a fever and a headache, she really looked no different than numerous other children I had been seeing with a fall viral syndrome.  She definitely looked like she didn’t feel well but was sitting on her mom’s lap, did not have a cough or congestion and had no other real symptoms.  She did complain about a “scratchy throat” and her strep test was negative.

It is not unusual to see a few days of fever with any virus, so she was sent home with instructions to treat her fever, and to return if the fever persisted more than another 24 – 48 hours or if she had new symptoms etc. She improved over the next 24 hours and returned to school the day after.

The following day her 3 year old sibling began running a fever, again complained of a headache and was brought to the office.  Her mother requested that a flu test be done, as “there is a lot of flu at her school”.  That was an interesting comment as the Dallas County health Dept. had reported “little to no” influenza activity to date, and our office sends flu samples to the health department for epidemiology.

But, knowing that “mother knows best” a flu test was performed and low and behold, it was positive for influenza A.  I was shocked!!!

How could they have flu with essentially just a fever and headache?   It was after the fever was gone that they developed the classic congestion and cough that we doctors typically associate with the flu.

This is really early in the season to typically see flu and if the Health Dept. is correct based on other samples this was probably H3N2 flu.  Now we are wondering if we are going to see more similar cases or if this is just a fluke?  In talking with other docs in the community, they too did not think they had yet seen influenza, or had they “missed cases” with kids who just had a fever.

Take home message for all of this is GO GET YOUR FLU SHOT or FLU MIST , as I like to say “run don’t walk” because a virus has a mind of its own and trying to predict what course it will take  is often an exercise in futility. But this I know to be true, there will be more flu cases over the next 4 months, but when the “true season” begins is still an unknown.

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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