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Flu deaths among children rise, "closer to 50%" of local children have flu vaccine

Flu deaths among children rise, "closer to 50%" of local children have flu vaccine

There have now been 20 flu-related deaths in children nationwide this flu season.

Seven of those deaths have happened in the past week.

If you think that's bad, doctors say it's about to get even worse.

One big reason: doctors many parents aren’t getting their kids vaccinated against the flu.

"I'd say it's not as high as it should be,” says Dr. Clint Pollack at Valley Children’s Hospital. “We’d like to see 100 percent, but I think it’s closer to 50%.”

He says some of the parents don’t have access to healthcare for their kids.

Others didn’t realize the kids needed the flu vaccine, too.

That was the case for Maria Vargas of Delhi.

She brought her eight-month-old son Kevin to Valley Children’s Hospital out of concern.

He cried as he waited in a room to see a doctor.

“It breaks my heart,” she says.

She grew worried because the baby wasn’t sleeping, his nose started running, he had a fever and most recently, he started having problems breathing.

“He’s wheezing,” she says.

She feared it might be the flu.

“Everybody I know has gotten sick, their kids have gotten sick,” Vargas said.

"All kids over the age of six months, it's recommended by the Centers for Disease Control they get a flu vaccine. Kids younger than 8 need two shots," says Pollack.

While the epidemic is alarming, Pollack says the flu season hasn’t even peaked yet.

That’s later this month—and into February.

"Flu season is always our busiest time in the pediatric E.R. and sometimes the wait can get longer," he says.

But he says there are steps parents at home to recognize whether it's the flu... And possibly avoid that trip to the emergency room.

He says symptoms are more severe than a cough and runny nose.

“It's much higher fever. We're seeing kids with 104, 105, 106 every day,” he says. “Headaches, muscle aches and pains, vomiting.”

Pollack adds that cough and cold medicines are not recommended for any children under five, because of the side effects.

“You can give them Tylenol or Motrin. You could give a little Benadryl, it could dry off the nose, but it's not a cough medicine,” he says.

Pollack says the flu vaccine is 30 to 50 percent effective against this year's flu strain.

But any defense, it better than none.

If a child appears to have the flu, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible at a primary care provider or hospital.

Pollack says doctors can prescribe medicine to make those symptoms less severe.

But it’s only effective if it’s given in the first 48 hours of having the flu.

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