By Carolyn Barbre
Flu season has arrived like a tsunami. More than 300 children were out of school the Monday after Thanksgiving in the three Lindsay elementary schools according to LUSD secretary Bobbie Velasquez.
"One of our principals called and said they had a large number out, so I called the other school sites to see what there attendance rate was for that day and discovered we had more than 300 students out. Principals commented that the nurse was seeing a lot of students," she said.
The predominant flu strain reported around the country is Type-A Fujian, which is slightly different from Type-A Panama, one of three strains that this year's vaccine was designed to prevent. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year's flu shots and nasal vaccine formulation should prevent most cases of the new strain, although some vaccinated people will probably become infected. They said for those who get the flu, the vaccine should lessen its severity. However, the CDC said the national death toll from the flu that has been averaging about 36,000 could double this year.
So far hospitals and doctors report that the flu is hitting children the hardest. Confirmed flu cases have increased in the last couple of weeks, particularly in Central California according to the state Department of Health Services.
Children's Hospital Central California in Madera has had 624 flu cases, verified by lab tests, in the last eight weeks compared to less than 50 at this time last year, officials said. Less than 25 had to be hospitalized and there have been no deaths related to the flu. The hospital only treated 170 cases for all of last year.
As of Nov. 12, all children ages 12 and under were restricted from visiting patients or entering patient care areas at Children's Hospital because of a rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The restriction will be in effect through the end of March. Manager of infection control at the hospital Gregg Pullen said the number of cases has taxed emergency departments to the maximum. He described it as "pretty close to a crisis."
In Porterville, children younger than 13 cannot be on any of Sierra View District Hospital's upper floors, said Lucie Garcia, the hospital's director of community relations.
Signs posted throughout Kaweah Delta District Hospital warn people of a "winter virus alert" and ask that iif they have a cold or runny nose to remain in the waiting room. If adults have to visit a patient, signs ask that they keep their visits short and not touch items in patient rooms or in medical-care areas. As of Dec. 1, children younger than 12 are no longer allowed to visit patients this winter, said Ron Ballecer, director of marketing and public relations at Kaweah Delta.
"We recognize that this is going to be an inconvenience to some, but when you look at the big picture, we're trying to safeguard our patients," he said.
RSV is the most common cause of serious respiratory infection in infants and children under four. It is so common that most children will have had at least one RSV infection before three years of age.
Most children who get RSV have mild cold symptoms - stuffy nose, cough or sore throat. However, newborns, infant, and children with chronic medical conditions may contract a more severe infection, even requiring hospitalization.
Steps to avoid RSV infection: