With flu activity on the rise, newborns face the highest risk

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity is on the rise.

In just the past week, there’s been an uptick of cases at Hennepin Healthcare.

“We’re starting to see an increase in the number of flu cases,” said Dr. Stacene Maroushek, of Hennepin Healthcare.

A Hennepin Healthcare pediatrician, Dr. Maroushek says that newborns are among those at highest risk because they are too young to get vaccinated.

So far, this flu season has claimed more than a dozen young lives nationwide.

“Those first year babies that are born in the winter months really do have a higher incidence of disease, because they don’t have the protections because of vaccines and other things,” Maroushek added.

According to national health officials the H1N1 strain, also known as swine flu, is hitting younger people-hard.

“We’re seeing some more H1N1 starting and H1N1 tends to be a little more of a severe influenza strain,” Maroushek said.

With the exception of newborns, the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older.

“In my experience children are sort of the canary and in the coal mine,” said Dr. Maroushek. “It’s often the kids in schools or in daycares that start spreading the flu around the community before you really start seeing it in adults.”

As we approach the peak of flu season, Dr. Maroushek says that it’s never too late to get vaccinated; She says that some patients have received flu shots as late as April.

“Good hand-washing and vaccination is our best public health measure in preventing flu, not just for yourself and you being sick, but to prevent those kids who can’t be vaccinated,” said Maroushek.