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'All this is inevitable': Polk County sees late-season pediatric flu surge

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – As life returns to normal after a more-than-two-year pandemic, one unpleasant part of pre-COVID-19 life has returned.

“We have been seeing, interestingly, an influx, late in cold and flu season, of influenza type A primarily,” said Dr. Diane Mageau, a pediatrician at Central Florida Health Care.

Dr. Mageau says the increase began after Easter.

The latest data from the Florida Department of Health shows Polk County as one of two counties with “moderate flu activity,” as of April 30.

“When things were shut down during 2020 and whatnot, kids weren’t getting sick whatsoever. So now, with kids back to school, in activities, less masking, all this is inevitable,” said Dr. Jason Cornett, a pediatrician from Watson Clinic.

Lakeland Regional Health is reporting a “steady increase each week” in Influenza A, RSV and COVID-19, a spokesperson said.

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County is also seeing an “uptick in flu cases here among children recently,” a trend a spokesperson calls “out of the ordinary.”

“It’s not just flu. We’re seeing everything. RSV, multiple types of respiratory viruses,” said Watson Clinic’s Dr. Cornett.

The last few days have been worrisome for Lakeland mother Sherrie Pratt.

“I ended up having to take [my son] to the urgent care because he had a 104 [degree] fever,” she said.

Soon, both her children would be diagnosed with the flu. She turned to medicine to get them better.

“My son and my daughter had both been taking Tamiflu. But I needed to get a refill for my son and when I called to get that refill yesterday, I was told that Tamiflu is out of stock,” she said.

Other parents, she says, were experiencing the same thing.

“That is not uncommon to hear that when there’s a huge influx, especially this late in the season, the pharmacies, I can imagine, are probably caught off guard,” said Dr. Mageau.

Fevers can be high and long-lasting with the flu. Doctors remind parents to keep their children hydrated and out of school until they are fever-free for 24 hours.

“We recommend that even though it’s late in the season, everyone should still get their flu vaccine. It’s your best protection against illness from the flu,” said Dr. Mageau.

She advises people to check with their health department for flu shots if their doctor’s offices or pharmacies don’t have any left.

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