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The Flu Outbreak: A Local Expert Weighs In

11:51 PM, Jan 8, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- The flu virus is hitting harder and faster this season than in recent years.  Many hospitals are packed trying to handle all the cases.

Sujata Ambardar, M.D., Chief of Infectious Diseases at Inova Fairfax Hospital talks to Anita Brikman about why this season is more potent than previous seasons.

Anita: "Why are some seasons so much worse than others?"

Dr. Ambardar:  "I think with this season it may have to do with the type of influenza.  The type of isolate, the H3N2 which is part of the vaccine, may be more severe."

Anita:  "So that strain is just a bad strain?"

Dr. Ambardar:  "Correct, although we don't really know the details of that at this point but we are seeing is that in terms of the number of influenza-like illness we use that terminology and from that the number of positive influenza cases is much higher."

Anita:  "Now the vaccine though does include this strain, let's talk about that because we've gotten some conflicting information on whether the vaccine was a good match, is it a good match?"

Dr. Ambardar:  "So far based on the studies that they have done and CDC has actually taken samples of the isolates both the influenza A, the two components of that and the B, so far matching greater than 99 percent which is what would be expected."

Anita:  "So this is another reason to get that flu shot."

Dr. Ambardar:  "Absolutely, they are still encouraging everybody to get the influenza vaccine and it's not too late because influenza season can last up to May even."

Anita:  "Now we heard reports, children are dying.  And for a parent you just think 'how on earth can I possibly lose my child to the flu, but it happens.'"

Dr. Ambardar:  "We have to be sure that we immunize high risk individuals which would be anybody younger than five and specifically younger than two.  The elderly, anybody with any type of immune defect, metabolic problems.  Children, especially young children are very vulnerable, we wanna make sure that we immunize not only children but their providers, caregivers, daycare providers very important, and similarly any kind of health care provider of anybody with a chronic illness."

Anita:  "You know I was at Walter Reed today and literally as you are walking into the hospital there are signs saying 'if you are coughing or sneezing, stop at the front desk for a mask' is that really what we need to do when we are potentially infectious just stay out of the public arena?"

Dr. Ambardar:  "I don't know if you recall the H1N1 episode in 2009, that was specifically what they recommended that if you had an illness that you thought was an influenza-like illness to avoid going to the hospital.  They actually limited visitation to hospitals at that time because transmission is a risk and you don't want to come to the hospital and be sick and get people who are already ill worse."

Anita:  "And a final take home message if we are sick we should stay home from work and school absolutely."

Dr. Ambardar:  "Absolutely and the transmission is probably five to seven days after you get sick and it starts about one day before."

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