With the flu season fast approaching and news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that 830 children died from flu-related complications between October 2004 and September 2012, parents need to understand that a simple flu shot can be lifesaving. Thats why we sat down to speak with Yvonne Maldonado, MD, chief of pediatric infectious disease at Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital at Stanford and a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, to learn more about this years new quadrivalent vaccine as well as to get tips on how to minimize the chances of catching the flu.
Can you shed some light on the new vaccine? And how do parents go about getting the new vaccine for themselves and their children?
Dr. Maldonado: This season, there is a new flu vaccine that protects against four strains of flu which is called a quadrivalent vaccine. In the past, trivalent vaccines would protect against two different strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B, but the quadrivalent will protect against two strains of influenza A and two types of influenza B. The quadrivalent vaccine could provide as much as 15 percent more immunity, depending on what flu strains are circulating in a particular year; however, it is perfectly fine to receive the trivalent vaccine as well.
I would recommend that parents ask their health care provider if the quadrivalent vaccine is available. Other resources include public clinics as well as county health departments. Given that this is the first year we are issuing the quadrivalent vaccine, there may not be enough for all individuals who want it. I hope that by next flu season well have the quadrivalent vaccine for everyone.
What would you say to parents who are considering not getting their children vaccinated, or believe that flu shots will actually make them sick?
Dr. Maldonado: People sometimes think that getting the flu vaccine causes the flu, but that is really a myth. We throw the word flu around pretty easily. People may think they caught the flu, when in fact they have another respiratory virus.
The flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the likelihood of getting the flu by 60 to 70 percent. Even if a parent or child has gotten the vaccine in previous years, be sure to get a flu shot this year to boost immunity to seasonal influenza.
How will the 2013-14 flu season compare with last years? Any major changes?
Dr. Maldonado: As of late 2013, its pretty quiet in California and in the rest of the United States — I havent seen major activity.
What overarching trends did you see during last years flu season?
Dr. Maldonado: During the 2012-13 flu season, we had the H1N1 flu strain — the swine flu that emerged in 2009 — become the dominant flu strain, which accounted for 126 pediatric deaths. It peaked early in December, but around January it started to drop off. Last season was a busy year, but it wasnt as busy as previous years.
What are your tips to prevent the flu from spreading?
Dr. Maldonado: Parents should monitor their children for flu-like illness: fever, cough, sore throat, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Anyone with flu symptoms should stay home from school and work. Kids also should practice hand-washing and other health basics to avoid spreading germs. In addition, parents need to make sure that children know how to protect others by covering their coughing or sneezing.
About Packard Childrens Hospital
Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital at Stanford is an internationally recognized 311-bed hospital and leading regional medical network providing a full complement of services for the health of children and expectant mothers. Together, our world-class Stanford Medicine doctors, nurses and staff deliver innovative, nurturing care and extraordinary outcomes in every pediatric and obstetric specialty. Packard Childrens is annually ranked as one of the nations finest by U.S. News & World Report and the only Northern California childrens hospital with specialty programs ranked in the U.S. News Top 10. Learn more about our full range of preeminent programs at lpch.org and the Packard Childrens Health Alliance at PCHA.org. Like us on Facebook, watch us on YouTube and follow us on Twitter.