Complications associated with a particularly potent strain of the flu has claimed the life of three children in Minnesota, health officials said. And, seven more children are in the ICU, according to the Minnesota Health Department.
“This year’s flu strain is especially dangerous and can quickly accelerate to a life-threatening situation in children,” said Dr. Pritish Tosh of Mayo Clinic. “The virus can enter the blood stream and then the brain, resulting in severe respiratory distress including a high fever and shortness of breath,” Dr. Tosh said.
Most concerning is that this strain of the flu can even infect otherwise healthy children and cause the body to overcompensate, sending white blood cells flooding the lungs which would than lead to serious, sometimes fatal health consequences.
Flu strains are named for molecule types that surround outside the virus particle. There are 17 types of hemagglutinin, also known as H particles, which allow the virus to bind to cells. Nine types of neuraminidase, also known as N particles, allow the virus to spread and infect the entire body. To that end, this year an estimated 90 percent of flu cases this year have been the H3N2 subtype which has caused the agency to declare this year’s flu an epidemic.
The H3 strain commonly leads to large numbers of deaths and hospitalizations, particularly in children, the elderly and those with otherwise compromised immune systems. To further make matters more serious, this year’s strain is not well-matched to what was predicted in the current vaccine, Tosh said.
What you can do
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children six months and older and adults getting a flu vaccine as the number one way to protect against the flu. But other everyday precautions include:
Regularly washing hands with warm, soapy water.
Eat healthy foods, exercise, drink plenty of water and generally be mindful of good health habits.
Avoid being near sick people when possible. If you are exposed to or caring for someone with the flu, talk to your doctor about preventive antiviral medications.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine. Seek medical attention if necessary.
Steve is the Managing Shareholder of Steven J. Klearman & Associates, a civil litigation law firm located in Reno, Nevada. He practices primarily in the areas of civil litigation and injury law, and has authored one of the definitive guides to Nevada civil law that is widely used by Nevada judges and attorneys, his book entitled Elements of Nevada Legal Theories.