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Abilene healthcare professionals consider flu season an epidemic for kids

By Ariana Garza, Weekend Anchor/Crime & Courts Reporter, agarza@ktxs.com
Published On: Jan 08 2013 09:10:23 AM CST
ABILENE, Texas -

This year's flu season in Abilene is much worse than years past and the flu shot does not seem to be a good match, according to pediatricians and school nurses.

Pediatrician Jami Adams said children are most contagious when they have a fever and should not be sent to school.

Jackson Elementary School Nurse Debra McCracken said she is surprised by the number of cases she has seen.

"We haven't had a year like this in probably four to five years," McCracken said. "Last year we were all beginning to think we weren't going to have a flu season."

Abilene Independent School District reported at least six confirmed cases of the flu Monday. Also Monday, 152 students called in sick in the Brownwood Independent School District; however, it is not clear how many of them had the flu.

Adams said she sees about five to 15 children each day who test positive for the flu.

"They're so contagious, you know, the cough, the fever, they just need to stay home and rest," McCracken said.

"We've tried to get universal coverage because it's those kids in school who are coughing and sneezing on each other who are then bringing it back to their families and getting everybody else sick," Adams said. "So we're trying to immunize everybody." 

Several strains of the flu exist and Adams said this season's shot may not be the most effective since she has had several patients test positive though they have taken the shot. McCracken said she has seen a similar trend among her colleagues.

"I do strongly recommend that everybody go get their flu vaccine because even if it's not totally eliminating it, it seems to be decreasing the severity of the symptoms," Adams said.

Adams said the flu virus can live up to eight hours on a surface.

Children as young as six months can get the flu shot. Children with chronic conditions or respiratory illnesses, like asthma, have a greater chance of getting the flu.