MULLICA HILL, N.J. (CBS) — Flu season has turned deadly this year, with two deaths confirmed from pediatric cases in New Jersey. Infections are widespread right now and public health officials say it will only get worse before it gets better.
It’s the simple habits we all learned as kids but sometimes let slide, that school nurse Patti Butler says can determine how we stay healthy during something as serious as flu season.
“Hand-washing is the No. 1 key,” she said.
As the school nurse at Zane North Elementary in Collingswood, it’s Butler’s job not only to teach flu prevention and help treat sick children, but she also reports cases to the New Jersey Health Department for their weekly flu report.
Right now, officials are seeing high levels of flu activity throughout the whole state. There have been two confirmed child deaths this season.
“So the past few weeks, we’ve seen increases in numbers of patients who have contracted the flu, predominantly more influenza B, and we’re seeing a lot more cases in the pediatric population,” said Dr. Katie Schultes, with the Inspira Mullica Hill Emergency Department.
Schultes says Strain B influenza produces similar symptoms as Strain A, but it’s unusual to see so many cases this early in the flu season.
“So that means we’re probably going to see lots more cases of the flu for a lot longer this year,” she said.
It’s all the more reason, she says, to get a flu shot and practice good hygiene.
Butler says it’s good to remind children not to put their hands in their mouth, nose or eyes at school and wash their hands thoroughly.
“Get a good amount of soap, have them scrub, have them sing the alphabet twice or happy birthday a few times,” Butler recommends.
Officials say that when your child has flu-like symptoms, the sooner you can get them to the doctor for treatment, the better. If they’re having a hard time breathing, won’t drink or having an out-of-control fever, it might be time to go to an emergency room.
In Philadelphia, there have been nearly 1,300 confirmed cases of the flu and three deaths. In Delaware, there have been 1,554 confirmed cases — nearly double to this time last year, officials say.