Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Media: Flu takes toll on Suisun Elementary children

By Carol Bogart Daily Republic

SUISUN CITY - Flu is suddenly hitting children hard across the country, and those at Suisun Elementary School are no exception.

What was a mild flu season has taken a dramatic turn, said Dr. Ron Chapman, Solano County Health Officer.

Two weeks ago Suisun Elementary attendance clerk Terri Phillips might fill 'half a page' a day with the names of 14 or 15 absent students, she said. Now, she has days when she fills 2.5 pages, 30 names to a page, and a page and a half is not unusual.

Chapman has been following reports issued by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, which tracks flu outbreaks. Severe pediatric cases are on the rise across the country, he said, with 20 children so ill they had to be hospitalized just in the past week.

'We watch the number of childhood cases very closely because it's an indicator of what's going on in the bigger picture,' said Chapman, who added that most of the 36,000 people who die from the flu each year are older than 65.

The flu strain causing at least 30 percent of the current spike 'mutated' from one that is in flu shots administered this year, Chapman said. Symptoms are those of a respiratory flu: cough, fever, muscle and joint aches, occasional headaches or dizziness, weakness and fatigue.

Suisun Elementary staff members call a student's family whenever the child is out sick. Phillips said. She has heard of symptoms such as 'hoarseness, stuffy nose and stuffy head, a lot of ear infections.'

At NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, spokeswoman Marilyn Ranson said one employee has four children and 'all four have the flu.' Pediatricians she contacted Tuesday said, as yet, they are not seeing an increase in children with the flu.

Statewide, however, severe pediatric cases have more than doubled in the past two weeks, with a 50 percent increase in those requiring hospitalization, Chapman said.

Nationally, 31 states so far are reporting widespread flu activity, Chapman said, while California is experiencing pockets here and there.

Children and others who have had the flu shot may experience less severe symptoms of the strain that has mutated, Chapman said.

'The way it's changed, it's similar to what's in the vaccine, but not the same,' he added. 'With 'partial coverage,' those infected may not get as sick as they might have otherwise.'

Reach Carol Bogart at 427-6955 or at

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