2018 could be a record year in KC for flu diagnoses in children, doctors say

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The flu is racing through communities almost faster than doctors can keep up.

Doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital said it could be a record year in Kansas City for flu diagnoses in children.

Children between six months and two years old seem to be the biggest target for the flu. When they get sick, watch out because it spreads fast.

“One thing we can unequivocally say about it is influenza is a bad disease and particularly this year,” said infectious disease doctor Mary Anne Jackson.

A bad flu season with the most serious strain and the number of children getting sick is increasing quickly. Children’s Mercy has seen 900 cases of the flu so far. Jackson estimated at this rate, this year could rank as one of the worst flu seasons ever.

“Just in the last week, we have gone from 13 to 20 child deaths in the U.S.," Jackson said. "To have seven deaths recorded in the last week, you know this curve can go up steeply, and we are probably going to exceed the average of 100 kids who die each year."

Although there are no child deaths reported in Kansas City, doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital have seen children with the flu on top of other serious diseases.

“And that is complicated pneumonia, complicated sinus infections, blood stream infections and so we are seeing diseases that can be life-threatening, vision-threatening and that are potentially preventable,” Jackson said. “Children don’t wash their hands, and they are face-to-face like nobody’s business. This is true -- the old saying that day care centers are like petri dishes -- because bugs can spread very easily, very quickly.”

Janie Deegan works at Operation Breakthrough. She said they haven't had one case of the flu among the children there. They've been successful in staving off the flu by making sure staff and children wash their hands frequently and disinfecting shared items such as toys. They also had an immunization clinic where many of their children were vaccinated.

Deegan’s children at work have so far escaped the flu, but one of her children at home did not.

“My own son has the flu,” said Deegan, who didn't get her son vaccinated. “No parent ever wants their child to be sick. You would rather it’s you.”

Jackson said only 50 percent of the population gets the flu shot, and there are two reasons why more people don’t.

“Trust and confidence. Trust means, 'I believe what you are telling me, that this will help me and will protect me from a disease that is worth being protected from,' and that is the trust piece," Jackson said. “The confidence that the vaccine is less of a risk than getting the disease, and one thing we can unequivocally say about it is influenza is a bad disease and particularly this year.”

Jackson said it's not too late to get the flu shot, and she hopes many more people will to slow down the progression of this dangerous disease.