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Severe Flu Outbreak Has Hospital Nearly Full

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(Memphis) One of the worst strains of flu in years is causing three times the typical number of children to be seen and admitted at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

About 300 children are being seen in the emergency department on a daily basis, with 30-35 of them being admitted for overnight care. Two or three children per day are being admitted to the intensive care unit.

This particular flu strain started early, in late November and is expected to continue through February.

Dr. Jon McCullers, pediatrician in chief at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, said that no children have died this year of the flu, but that on average, one in 1,000 children die of the flu.

He also mentioned this year, children of different ages are displaying different symptoms.

“Most kids are having fever, cough and muscle aches as the common symptoms. If you’re a small child, or a baby, maybe just fever, vomiting or a little diarrhea to go with it…Smaller kids tend to have a little different symptoms, which can fool the parents who are thinking of the normal symptoms being fever and cough,” McCullers said.

He recommends parents bring their children to their pediatricians early on, to receive medication that could help treat the illness before it gets worse.

Health professionals also suggest washing hands frequently, coughing into one’s sleeve, and staying away from others who are sick.

“It’s been a little unusual this year. We’ve had so much flu through the holidays, now we’re a little worried that with kids going back to school this week it’s going to get even worse,” he said.

Josh Dyson Jr. is a nine-month old baby who’s been hospitalized with the flu for the last three days.

His mother, Brianna Kies, said he may have gotten it from another child she babysits.

Kies said he’s been on oxygen.

“It’s very hard to see him like that. Very hard. It’s not good,” she said.

This is the first time Josh has been seriously ill, and his parents are worried.

“There’s so much going on, it’s hard to explain,” Kies said, describing his runny nose, coughing and wheezing.

He did not have a flu shot. Dr. McCullers said those who are most seriously ill were not vaccinated.

Dr. McCullers said the flu shot this year is very well matched to the illnesses going around. Since a shot will take seven to 10 days to take effect, one can still get a shot and be protected against most strains for the next month or so.

Luckily, Baby Josh is improving every day.

“We’re ready to go home, safe and sound,” Kies said.