Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Think March is too late for the flu? One pediatrician has still been seeing many infected patients.
“I think the reason it surprises me in March is that it was an early season too. So this season has been going on a long time. This has been a bad flu season,” says Dr. Scott Tyson, a pediatrician at Pediatrics South Mt. Lebanon.
To curb antibiotic use, he actually tests his patients for the flu, which is caused not by bacteria, but a virus, which antibiotics won’t help.
“What we found this year is that flu B has been a big component of our positives,” Dr. Tyson adds.
The flu virus comes in types A, B and C. Outbreaks have been caused by A and B. Influenza A is more common in the winter and early spring. Influenza B is a year-round virus.
Despite a flu shot, Christine Tumpson’s teenage son has Influenza B.
“When we first went, they asked if he had had a flu shot. And we said yes, he had it. So they said that with his symptoms, they were still going to run the test for the flu B, because they had had other cases just that day,” she said.
It’s possible he caught a strain not covered in this year’s flu shot.
“They’ll put in two strains of type A and one strain of type B, and if something else is circulating that year, we’ve had an unlucky year,” says Dr. Marian Michaels, an infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Another possibility is that the vaccine just didn’t make a big enough immune response.
Most years, the flu shot protects about 60 percent of those who get it. The CDC says this year’s vaccine protected against having to go to the doctor because of the flu for only about half of all people who got it.
This was worse for the elderly. Getting immunized protected only one of four from having to go to the doctor.
Still, it’s better than nothing.
“If you don’t get the vaccine, you have zero protection,” says Michaels. “So even if it works 50 percent, 60 percent of the time, that is better than zero percent.”