MINNEAPOLIS – No matter how Patsy Stinchfield charts it, the influenza cases coming through Children's Minnesota now catapult into record territory -- an estimated 800 cases so far this season.
As a pediatric nurse practitioner specializing in infectious disease, she points to a bar graph showing a surge in cases coming through the doors of Children’s Minnesota hospitals and clinics last week, with doctors tallying 238 positive influenza cases in one week, with 22 children hospitalized.
It marks the highest number of cases in one week so far this flu season, surpassing influenza levels in 2014, the previous record year for influenza cases.
“The message now in February is we aren't sure if we are coming to the peak of it,” said Stinchfield. “Even if this is the peak, it's like a mountain, the peak is not the end. The peak is the top and you have got to get back down so we have a good six or more weeks of influenza ahead of us.”
Stinchfield warns her patients about another round of flu to fight, as people who have already had influenza A this season could also contract influenza B.
“Spring influenza can be awfully hard on children because it can be influenza B strain, and B strains are harder on kids, they end up in the hospital more,” said Stinchfield.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 3,467 people in Minnesota have been hospitalized this season for influenza. Stinchfield says the main strain circulating is H3N2.
“Which is a known bad player, and you’ve got a vaccine that is not working as well as we want it to against it. But even though that vaccine doesn’t work as well, it will work 65 percent better of keeping you out of the ICU than if you didn’t get your vaccine,” said Stinchfield.
Around 10 percent of kids diagnosed with the flu so far have been hospitalized at Children’s Minnesota. Stinchfield says what characterizes colds from influenza is the sudden onset.
“Which is wicked, very sick, lots of runny nose, cough, high fever, severe body aches,” said Stinchfield. “And it feels like you got hit by a train.”
She tells families to come into the hospital if they are experiencing an uncontrolled fever, dehydration, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
“I think one of the things that scares me the most is how flippant people are about influenza,” said Stinchfield. “The main thing we know this year and every other year, the kids who went into the ICU are kids who are not vaccinated. So, anyone who has not gotten your flu shot, you should do so now.”