Doctors: Type B flu virus arrives early, affecting children more than adults

Posted at 4:31 PM, Jan 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-14 18:11:55-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A warning tonight for parents.

“It is the younger and the older folks that sometimes get into trouble,” Patient First Doctor Donald Curtis explained.

According to health care officials, a more rare strain of the flu virus is on the rise - type B.

Tuesday, News 3 talked with Dr. Curtis about the strain.

"Some people come in and they’re suspicious they had the flu, and they might have it. Other people - it’s not really on their radar,” Curtis mentioned.

Doctors with the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital said the strain arrived early this year andis more severe among children.

“We’ve seen more type B initially then type A, so that’s been interesting,” Dr. Curtis said about patients coming into the Patient First facility on Indian River Road.

The CDC reports there have been about 20 deaths among children associated with influenza B viruses beginning last September.

Doctors said while symptoms like body aches and fever are similar among the two types, they’re not sure why the B strain impacts children more than adults.

“We don’t know exactly why the Influenza B strain impacts children more than adults, but if we compare how much viruses have changed, the B strain tends to change a little more slowly” said Dr. Richard Webby, a member of the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization’s Vaccine Composition Team. "Therefore, it is possible that adults have the opportunity to build up more immunity over time to this particular strain and thus resulting in greater natural protection."

According to the CDC, this is the first time since the early 1990s that type B has been the predominant flu strain.

“I don’t think there is any good explanation for that. Both strains are in the environment on a daily basis and it’s hard to predict,” Dr. Curtis mentioned.

Though most people get the flu shot around October, he encourages those who haven’t to get vaccinated soon.

“I have seen a lot of people with the flu that have not got the shot this year. It’s not 100% effective, but it is helpful,” he said.

To help prevent the spread of the virus, Dr. Curtis said make sure you wash your hands, cough into your elbows and avoid people with the virus.