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News Releases

For Immediate Release

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Experts Say Parents Shouldn’t Feel Helpless Against the Flu This Season

Public fears nationwide over an early and harsh flu season are causing record numbers of people to seek the vaccine, but doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh are assuring parents that flu symptoms here are similar to past years and that the vaccine is effective.

Hospital officials say this flu outbreak arrived early and symptoms are more severe than in recent seasons. This season, more than 500 children have been treated at Children’s Hospital for flu-like symptoms such as fever and cough.

While children are affected by the flu more than any other age group, only seven patients treated at Children’s have had severe symptoms that required hospitalization and no patient has died or had life-threatening complications, said Richard A. Saladino, MD, chief of Emergency Medicine at Children’s.

“While this flu season has hit hard and fast, particularly in children, we are urging parents to approach the flu with calm and common sense,” Dr. Saladino said. “We should treat children with the flu and other winter respiratory illnesses just as we do every season. Sick children should be given fever medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofren and plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Parents should stay in touch with their child’s primary care physician, who will help them make the best decision.”

Although the predominant strain of flu circulating so far this season in the United States is slightly different than the comparable strain in the vaccine, it should still provide moderate protection, said David P. Greenberg, MD, director of the Center for Vaccine Research at Children’s. The vaccine is recommended for healthy children age 6-23 months and other children with underlying medical conditions such as chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease.

“We encourage all parents to have their children vaccinated if it is available and medically appropriate for them to do so. It is a safe and effective vaccine and despite popular opinion, you cannot get the flu from getting the shot,” Dr. Greenberg said. “For those who have had the vaccine, it should protect them against most of the flu circulating this year. In instances where it doesn’t prevent someone from getting the flu, it should, however, lessen the severity of the illness.”

Dr. Greenberg said parents can take steps to protect children who are not vaccinated. Some tips for families to avoid transmitting the flu include:

  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water or antibacterial hand gels.
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, phones and refrigerator handles.
  • Teach children to turn their heads to cough and to sneeze into a tissue.
  • Avoid exposing young children to persons with a cold or flu.
  • Do not share anything that goes into the mouth, such as drinking cups and straws.

Contacts:
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016, Marc.Lukasiak@chp.edu
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016, Melanie.Finnigan@chp.edu

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008
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