Don’t Be Complacent: Influenza is Unpredictable
Jan 11, 2010

By Carol J. Baker, MD
Carol J. Baker, MD is Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology and Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Immediate Past President, NFID, Chair, NFID’s Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition
Last spring H1N1 pandemic influenza catapulted influenza onto the “A list” of newsworthy topics. After months of being in the news, much of what we’re hearing now is about how the worst is behind us. But I’m not breathing a sigh of relief. Already one of my patients, a 5 month old, has died.  Another healthy 13 year old with asthma is left with amputations of his fingers and toes.  Flu cases may be down, but they are not gone.  I’m advising parents in my practice to stay on guard and I think you should, too.
In reality, we’re only just beginning the stretch generally considered – in non-pandemic years – to be the “flu season.” In most “typical” flu seasons, the virus doesn’t peak until around February, and remains in circulation at least until early spring. And given the unpredictability of flu virus, it’s entirely possible that another H1N1 wave could hit – and perhaps circulate simultaneously with strains of seasonal flu – long before we can reliably deem flu viruses as down for the count this season. Since there’s no way to know with certainty how the  next act of this current flu season tragedy will play out, it makes sense to eliminate the risk and get your children vaccinated for both seasonal influenza and H1N1 this winter.     
For all you parents reading this, I urge you, as I urge parents in my own practice, to get the facts about flu! As your children return to school after their holiday break, and congregate indoors through the coming coldest months, they’re more likely to spread and catch germs – including flu virus. Why leave them unprotected? Know that influenza can be a serious illness that each year causes hospitalizations and deaths in children – even previously healthy ones. It’s impossible to predict which kids will be most seriously affected with flu complications, including pneumonia – a leading cause of children’s death. But one thing we do know is that vaccination is the best way to protect against influenza.
Flu can spread quickly through a family. If you act now, you’ll help ensure that your family won’t be laid up with flu through the President’s Day and Spring Break holidays. Call your pediatrician or local health department to locate the most convenient source of immunization in your area.
Choose to do your part to make 2010 a happy and healthy new year for your family!

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