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Health Officials: US Experiencing Worst Flu Season For Children In Past Decade As Second Influenza Wave Spreading

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It's been a bad flu season for children nationwide and now officials say there is a second wave of influenza spreading. Pennsylvania has more than 72,000 confirmed cases of the flu, which is just a small reflection of the number of people who are sick.

The flu can be dangerous for children, especially if they have a weakened immune system or have not been vaccinated.

Dr. Aditi Joshi, with Jefferson Health, says it's easily spread in schools.

"Because it's very contagious, it can live on surfaces for a few hours even if you're not there and if you don't wash your hands, it tends to be very contagious for that reason, so kids tend to get it a lot," Dr. Joshi said.

The CDC says this is one of the worst flu seasons for children. Ninety-two have died since last fall, which is the highest total at this point in the season in the past decade.

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There is now a second wave of flu cases.

Overall, about 14,000 Americans have died from the flu this season.

(credit: CBS3)

"Now with flu A, we are seeing people feeling sicker," Dr. Joshi said.

Health officials say two strains of the flu, A and B, have circulated this season and it's possible to get both. 

"We want to keep the spread down, the contagion down," Dr. Joshi added.

She also says one way to do that is through telehealth where patients can virtually interact with doctors through JeffConnect.

"We can take a look and say, 'OK, you look really severe or you really don't.' We can look at the timeline if you have high-risk factors and need Tamiflu or you may need to come in for the workup," Dr. Joshi said. "Generally, with the flu, most of it is supportive care so you can just stay at home and get treated from there."

Doctors say it's still not too late to get the flu shot. It might not be totally protective but it will reduce the length and severity if you do get sick.

In addition to a flu shot -- and you can only get one per season -- hand-washing is another important way to prevent the flu along with staying away from others if you're sick.

Telemedicine can be a good option as many doctors and health systems are offering the service to talk to a doctor via phone or computer.

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