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115 U.S. Children, Teens Died From Flu Last Season: CDC

Some 115 U.S. children and teens died from influenza last flu season, and many of those deaths were in children who didn't get an annual flu shot, U.S. health officials said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots for children as young as six months old, yet less than a quarter of the 74 children over age six months who died between September 2010 and August 2011 had been vaccinated.

"It's vital that children get vaccinated," Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of the CDC's Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team, said in a statement.

In the October issue of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that while children aged six months to eight years usually need two doses of flu vaccine, if they were vaccinated last season they only require one dose this coming season, because the composition of the 2011-2012 vaccine is unchanged from the 2010-2011 season. (See Reuters Health story of September 8, 2011.)

The CDC said parents often mistakenly think healthy children can survive a bout of the flu, but that is not always so.

Among the deaths detailed in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released on Thursday, the team found about half of the children had no prior medical condition that would put them at increased risk of flu complications.

The researchers said being young is itself a flu risk factor. Of the children who died, 46% were younger than 5 and 29% were younger than 2.


Among the 57 children who did have a medical condition, over half had a neurological disorder, 30% had pulmonary disease, 25% had a chromosome or genetic disorder and 19% had congenital heart disease or other cardiac disease.

Only half of the 94 children who died in the hospital were given antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu. Since the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, the CDC has recommended immediate treatment with antiviral medications in patients with severe flu symptoms.

"We know the flu vaccine isn't 100% effective, especially not in children with high risk medical conditions," Dr. Finelli said in a statement.

"That's why it's essential that these two medical tools be fully utilized. Vaccinate first; then use influenza antiviral drugs as a second line of defense against the flu. Right now we aren't fully using the medical tools at our disposal to prevent flu illnesses and deaths in children."

Since the CDC started tracking pediatric flu deaths in 2004, the annual number of deaths has ranged from a low of 46 in the 2005-06 flu season to 282 during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009-2010.

This year's vaccine protects against H1N1 swine flu and two other flu strains, H3N2 and influenza B.


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Prepared by: Scientific Section

Source :

Reuters Health

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