Not This Year Influenza…or at least let’s hope that’s the case!

Not This Year Influenza…or at least let’s hope that’s the case!

In a year that has been dominated by uncertainty from a “novel” virus, one thing that is for sure is that the influenza virus will be making its appearance in the coming weeks.  It is important to remember that influenza kills otherwise healthy adults and children each and every year.  In the 2019-2020 flu season, 188 children died from the flu with over 50% of these children having no underlying medical conditions.  While most of our attention has been focused on Covid, we must not forget to give Influenza its due and realize that we DO have a vaccine that can prevent this viral infection.  Read on to find out what parents have been asking me in regards to flu and what will make this flu season different. How will doctors know if someone has influenza or Covid? This is a question that keeps me up at night already!  Since both of these illnesses are respiratory viruses, common symptoms will be fever, cough, body aches and chills.  Now, Covid can often present with the distinctive loss of taste or smell which is not something commonly seen with influenza.  Also, influenza has a much shorter incubation period meaning that after an exposure, someone would likely show symptoms within 1-4 days as opposed to Covid which has an incubation period of 2-14 days.  The only way physicians are really going to be able to tell if someone has Covid or the flu is going to be through testing.   When does flu season start? Influenza is a virus that we often see starting in the late fall or early winter and lingering...
Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C): What you need to know

Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C): What you need to know

Until recently, the headlines about Covid-19 have largely been about the disease in adults, especially the elderly and those people with underlying health conditions.  As a pediatrician, I’m used to seeing viruses like influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) wreak absolute havoc in children.  So, it has been an unexpected, albeit very welcome, “surprise” that Covid-19 seems to be having very little effect on children.  However, over the past few weeks, it seems that doctors around the globe are noting cases of children who are being diagnosed with severe inflammation throughout their body - something the Center for Disease Control is now calling “Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children” or MIS-C for short.  The headlines about this new development in kids are frightening, so let’s talk about what MIS-C really is and how worried parents need to be (keep reading for the good news here). “MIS-C is closely resembling two other rare illnesses that we see in children…one called Kawasaki disease and one called Toxic Shock Syndrome.”   Doctors really like to follow trends or clusters of illnesses, so when doctors in New York City started to see an increase in cases of children with overwhelming inflammation presenting to the hospital, it certainly was noteworthy.  Symptoms of children presenting with MIS-C have been varied but include high unrelenting fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rash, red eyes, and neck pain.  These children are showing massive amounts of inflammation in their blood vessels causing problems in organs such as the heart, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, and brain.  Some of the children who have been diagnosed with MIS-C have been found to have positive antibody...
Social Distancing and Flattening the Curve- what it really means

Social Distancing and Flattening the Curve- what it really means

  You may have seen the above image floating around on social media in the past week.  A common caption for this images is “The one who stayed away saved them all.”  This is the perfect representation of social distancing and why it is so important right now.  So what exactly does “social distancing” mean?  There is a lot that we don’t know about the novel Coronavirus causing our current pandemic, but one thing we do know for sure is that it is spread person to person by coughing, sneezing, or any kind of respiratory droplets.  We want to reduce the number of people that we are each exposed to as each person that is around us can “share” their respiratory droplets with all of those around them. By keeping our distance from one another, we are hoping to slow the spread of this virus.  The idea of “social distancing” is why schools, restaurants, churches, movie theaters, stores and just about any event that has more than 10 people in the same area has been cancelled.   That brings me to the idea of “flattening the curve.”  The “curve” we are talking about here is the number of people expected to become infected with COVID-19.  With novel viruses such as this strain of coronavirus, we can expect that much of the population will eventually get the virus since we do not have immunity to this virus (each time your body sees a virus, the immune system will makes cells that will help to “remember” the virus should you body see it again.  If the body is presented with the same virus...
Coronavirus…it’s here. Now what?

Coronavirus…it’s here. Now what?

  You can’t turn on the TV or scroll through social media these days without seeing something about the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.  Everyone, including scientist, have a lot of questions about this virus, so here is what we know right now (this article was originally published on February 29, 2020, so information will likely change on a daily basis): What is a Coronovirus? Human Coronaviruses as a whole are by no means new. In fact, most people have likely had coronavirus at some point in their life as these viruses typically cause mild respiratory illnesses like the common cold.  So then what is the difference with COVID-19? It appears that this particular coronavirus likely started in bats. In the past, those coronaviruses that started in animals and then spread to humans have caused more significant illnesses.  The two prior coronaviruses to start in this particular manner were SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003 and MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) which surfaced in 2012. The COVID-19 virus is “novel” meaning that until December 2019, this strain had not been identified in humans.   What do we know about COVID-19 so far? Scientists at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), at the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as numerous labs around the world are feverishly working to try and learn as much as possible about this particular strain of coronavirus.  Right now, much of what is speculated about COVID-19 is based on what we know about other coronavirus strains. It is likely that this virus is spread from person to person, but how easily it spreads is...
Mumps- What you need to know

Mumps- What you need to know

This week the Louisiana Office of Public Health reported that 5 students at LSU have tested positive for mumps.  It seems that in recent years we have been seeing outbreaks of mumps, particularly on college campuses (the last cases reported at LSU occurred in 2017),  so here is what you need to know about mumps and how to protect yourself and your children. What is Mumps? Mumps is a viral illness that is spread through respiratory droplets or saliva (so coughing, sneezing or sharing drinks).  An infection with the mumps virus may begin as nonspecific fever, headache, and malaise, but then often progresses to the most common symptom of mumps which is pain and swelling of the parotid gland.  As you can see in the pictures below, the parotid gland is located just in front of the ear and at the upper part of the jaw.  Swelling of the parotid gland, called parotitis, can be quite impressive and cause the ear to push outwards and the angle of the jaw to no longer be easily seen.  More serious complications of mumps include orchitis (which is swelling of the testicles that may lead to sterility) or oophoritis (which is swelling of the ovaries), encephalitis (swelling around the brain) or deafness.  Death from mumps is very rare (even in the pre-vaccine era).                     How common is Mumps? Mumps vaccination became commonplace in 1967, but prior to that time, there were over 186,000 cases each year here in the US.  Since routine vaccination, there has been a 99% reduction in the number of...