Influenza and Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality FAQs

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Frequently AskedQuestions - Influenza and Influenza-Associated PediatricMortality


Q. What is influenza?
A.
Influenza (“the flu”) is a respiratoryillness caused by the influenza virus. Seasonal influenza illness is typicallycaused by influenza A virus subtypes H1N1 or H3N2, or by influenza B or Cviruses. Influenza A and B viruses cause yearly epidemics—typically in thewinter months—in the Northern Hemisphere. Most people with influenza illnessrecover on their own in about 5-7 days; however, some individuals developserious complications or die from influenza.

Q. What isinfluenza-associated pediatric mortality?
A.
An influenza-associated pediatric death is adeath in a child under 18 years of age resulting from a clinically compatibleillness that is confirmed to be influenza by an appropriate laboratory or rapiddiagnostic test. Influenza-associated pediatric mortality is reportable by lawto the health department. Influenza deaths in other age groups are notreportable in Texas.

Q. Is influenzacontagious?
A.
Yes, influenza is verycontagious.  Most healthy adults who are ill with influenza may beable to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptomsdevelop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Childrenand persons with weakened immune systems might be able to infect other for evena longer period of time.  The virus can also be spread by people whoare infected but have no symptoms.

Q. How is influenzaspread?
A.
 Influenza viruses can be spread bylarge respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezesin close proximity to an uninfected person. Sometimes influenza viruses arespread when a person touches a surface with influenza viruses on it (e.g., adoorknob), and then touches his or her own nose or mouth.

Q. What are the symptoms?
A
. Influenza usually comes on suddenly,one to four days after the virus enters the body, and may include thesesymptoms:

  • Fever or feelingfeverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Tiredness (can beextreme)
  • Muscle or body aches

Among children, otitismedia (ear infection), nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common. Some personswho are infected with the influenza virus do not have symptoms.

Q. How is influenzatreated?
A
. Most people who develop influenzaillness will recover on their own with bed rest and do not need medication.Antiviral medications can shorten the duration and severity of illness if givenwithin the first 48 hours of the illness. These medications are usuallyprescribed to persons who have a severe illness or to those who are at higherrisk for developing serious illness or complications due to influenza.

Q. Who is most likely toget sick with influenza?
A.
 Anyone can get sick with influenza. Itis estimated that approximately 5%-20% of the population gets the flu eachyear. Some people are more likely to develop complications from their influenzaillness, leading to hospitalization or even death. People who seem to be athigher risk for complications from the flu include:

  • Children < 5 years ofage, especially children < 2 years of age
  • Adults aged 65 years orolder
  • Pregnant women
  • American Indians andAlaskan Natives
  • Persons with certainmedical conditions including asthma, neurological and neurodevelopmentalconditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes and other endocrinedisorders, liver or kidney disorders, blood disorders, and metabolic disease
  • Persons with a weakenedimmune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cancer, chronic corticosteroid treatment)
  • People younger than 19years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
  • Persons who are morbidlyobese

Q. What if I am exposed tosomeone who has influenza?A. Healthy individuals exposed to someonewith influenza should monitor themselves for a few days to see if they developsymptoms. If symptoms develop, these individuals will usually recover on theirown without medical treatment. Individuals at higher risk of complications whohave close contact with someone with influenza should contact their medicalprovider as soon as possible after exposure. The medical provider willdetermine whether antiviral medications should be given to prevent disease.

Q. How long would it takefor me to become sick if I were in close contact with an infected person?
A.
 Most people will get sick within 1 to 4days after exposure to the virus; however, some people will not developsymptoms.

Q. Is there a vaccine forinfluenza?
A.
A new influenza vaccine is available eachyear, typically beginning in August or September. The influenza vaccine hasthree components: an influenza A (H1N1) strain, an influenza A (H3N2) strain,and an influenza B strain. Yearly influenza vaccination is recommended for allpersons 6 months of age and older. Persons should seek vaccination as early aspossible because once vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for the body tomount a protective immune response. That said, it is never too late in theseason to get an influenza vaccine because influenza viruses circulateyear-round. Getting a flu vaccine every year is the best way to preventinfluenza and related complications.

Q. Is influenzareportable? What does the health department do when cases are reported?
A. In Texas, most individual cases ofinfluenza are not reportable by law to the health department; however, deathsfrom influenza in children under the age of 18 years (i.e.,influenza-associated pediatric deaths) are reportable within one working day.Influenza outbreaks and infections with variant or novel influenza strains arealso reportable. All proven or suspected influenza-associated pediatric deaths,outbreaks, and variant or novel influenza cases are investigated by the healthdepartment.

Q. When can my childreturn to school after being ill with influenza?
A. Ill children and adults should stayhome and away from well persons until they are fever free for at least 24 hourswithout the use of fever-reducing medications.

Q. Are there other recommendationsto avoid this illness in my household?
A. General steps you can take to avoidinfluenza illness include:

  • Get vaccinated forinfluenza every year
  • Wash hands frequentlywith soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing
  • Use alcohol-based handsanitizers when facilities are not available for hand washing
  • Cover coughs and sneezeswith disposable tissues or your arm/sleeve
  • Avoid touching your eyes,nose, or mouth
  • Avoid close contact withpeople who are sick
  • When you are sick, limitcontact with others and stay home until fever free for 24 hours without the useof fever-reducing medications
  • Take antiviralmedications if prescribed by your doctor