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Dominant flu strain this season is tough on children

Posted at 8:43 PM, Jan 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-22 23:36:13-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For the first time in almost three decades the dominant strain of the flu is one that is particularly dangerous for children.

"The concern is flu (strain) B -- it usually hits children, and it hits children a little bit harder," said the City-County Heatlh Center's Dr. Kim Onufrak.

The Centers for Disease Control reports 32 children have died from the flu this season, including eight in Texas. Influenza B was related to 21 of those cases.

Dr. Onufrak estimates that 1992 is the most recent year in which there were more cases of Influenza B than Influenza A. It's not just bad news for children: Anyone who got a flu shot can still get sick.

"(Influenza B) is unfortunately the dominant strain, and the vaccine this year doesn't match as well, because we hadn't seen it in such a long time," Dr. Onufrak said.

While the flu shot might not keep you from catching the flu, Dr. Onufrak said it should make the symptoms less severe.

"The good news is, even though they're vaccinated and they are getting sick with flu B, they're not getting as sick," Dr. Onufrak said.

Corpus Christi resident Ariel Tamez's toddler daughter, Andrena Manning, was diagnosed with Influenza A on Wednesday afternoon. Even though it's the less-dangerous strain for children, Tamez is still concerned.

"I'm worried about her, because there are cases where kids have died from the flu," she said.

Tamez said she's focused on caring for her daughter while trying not to get sick herself.

"I keep hand sanitizer in my bed stand, but I know even that doesn't kill everything," she said.

Dr. Onufrak said keeping your hands clean, and away from your face, will increase your chances of avoiding the flu. She also recommends getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and not putting anything in your mouth that may have come in contact with the flu virus.

"Try not to chew on things -- chewing on pens," Dr. Onufrak said. "You touch a surface. You touch your pen. Somebody else might have coughed around it or touched it that was sick. Then you can get (the flu virus) into your body."

Most importantly, Dr. Onufrak thinks that everyone -- children and adults alike - should get a flu shot.

"We have seen eight deaths in Texas this year alone," Dr. Onufrak said. "The majority of those deaths have come from unvaccinated children."