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With flu cases on the rise and combined with surge in COVID and RSV, doctors say no time better than now to get vaccinated

Parents, doctors warn of the dangers of not getting vaccines during flu season
Parents, doctors warn of the dangers of not getting vaccines during flu season 02:45

NEW YORK -- If it feels like you know a lot of people who are home sick, it is not your imagination. 

Health officials say there has been a surge of flu cases, and it has come with many people suffering from COVID-19 and RSV.

The flu can be deadly to adults and children. For one family, tragedy struck two decades ago, but the pain is still there, and they want people to know just how important vaccines are.

"We've never thought that something like this could happen to us," said Alissa Kanowitz of Scarsdale.

READ MOREIn new effort to reset flu shot expectations, CDC to avoid messages that "could be seen as a scare tactic"

Kanowitz knows all too well how dangerous the flu can be because she suffered the ultimate pain. In 2004, she lost her 4-year-old daughter, Amanda.

"Amanda was a happy, healthy little girl. She was that giggle girl. She loves pink and purple. She loved her dolls," Kanowitz said.

But it all happened so quickly, over 48 hours. Amanda never even had a fever higher than 102, and the doctor just said to keep her hydrated.

"So I went into Amanda's room at 3:30 in the morning to check on her and I gave her a hug and a kiss. And then, three hours later, I found her lifeless in her bed," Kanowitz said.

Kanowitz decided to make it her life's mission to get people vaccinated for the flu.

"If it happened to us, it can happen to anyone," she said.

The Health Department says flu cases surged 27% statewide last week. New Yorkers that spoke to CBS New York said that's incentive enough for them to get vaccinated.

"There's a high rise in cases, COVID, as well as the respiratory virus, so why not protect yourself?" said Sherry Hudson of the Upper West Side.

"I had the flu two years in a row. I lived in the dorms in college and it was like a petri dish. So now you get it every year," said Marissa Sosin of Randolph, New Jersey.

READ MOREDoctors cautioning parents, children of potential flu-COVID-RSV combo during holiday season

And this comes with COVID and RSV also making a comeback, making it hard for patients to tell them apart.

"They all can have fever, you know, a temperature of 100.4 or higher. They can all have cough, muscle aches, sore throat, you know. You can feel a fatigue, headache," said Dr. Purvi Parikh of the Allergy & Asthma Network.

So Parikh says testing, whether at home for COVID or at urgent care, is crucial, and if you want to avoid getting sick, get a vaccine. But remember, they take about two weeks to be effective.

"So let's say you're planning on traveling, and, you know, being with, you know, people in your family, who might be at risk of getting very sick from these things, and you should be getting your vaccines now," Parikh said.

Doctors also say flu shots can be important for pregnant women.

"We have really excellent data that clearly indicate that moms who don't get vaccinated have a much higher chance of getting sicker or possibly miscarrying from influenza," said Dr. Mary Koslap-Petraco, a clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook University School of Nursing.

If you've got respiratory issues, it's always important to be checked by your doctor. There have been no reported pediatric deaths this week or this season.

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