Youngest US kids most at risk of flu death

Iran Daily - - Society -

A new anal­y­sis of sea­sonal flu deaths in US chil­dren in the six sea­sons that fol­lowed the 2009 H1N1 pan­demic re­veals that chil­dren ages two and younger are most at risk, and of chil­dren who died, less than a third had been vac­ci­nated against the dis­ease.

Young chil­dren’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to flu and the gap in vac­ci­na­tion takes on ex­tra sig­nif­i­cance this flu sea­son, which has al­ready recorded 63 pe­di­atric flu deaths, shows no sign of a peak yet de­spite an early start, and has reached the flu­like ill­ness lev­els seen dur­ing the 2009-2010 pan­demic, re­ported.

The new study, done by re­searchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) and Pre­ven­tion, ap­peared in an early on­line edi­tion of Pe­di­atrics.

Flu deaths in chil­dren have been no­ti­fi­able in the US since 2004, which has al­lowed the CDC to be­gin keep­ing more de­tailed records. Since then, re­ported num­bers have ranged from 37 in the 2011-2012 sea­son to 358 dur­ing the H1N1 pan­demic sea­son. The CDC has had a uni­ver­sal flu vac­cine rec­om­men­da­tion in place for those ages six months and older since 2010, and last sea­son the high­est vac­ci­na­tion cov­er­age, at 76.3 per­cent, was in chil­dren ages 6 to 23 months.

To look more closely at the lat­est fa­tal­ity pat­terns, the team ex­am­ined lab-con­firmed pe­di­atric flu deaths for six flu sea­sons be­tween 2010-2011 to 2015-2016.

Dur­ing that time, 675 deaths were re­ported in chil­dren younger than 18, with an av­er­age of 113 deaths per year. Lev­els were high­est in ba­bies younger than 6 months old, fol­lowed by kids ages 6 to 23 months old.

Only 31 per­cent of chil­dren age six months and older who died had been vac­ci­nated against flu.

When re­searchers looked at clin­i­cal pat­terns, they found that in chil­dren, flu can kill quickly. About 65 per­cent died within 7 days of symp­tom on­set. And though chil­dren with pre­ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions are known to be at higher risk for flu com­pli­ca­tions, the team found that half were pre­vi­ously healthy.

Healthy young­sters who died from their flu in­fec­tions were more likely than peers who had un­der­ly­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions to be younger, less vac­ci­nated, die be­fore hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sion, and have shorter ill­ness du­ra­tions. As other stud­ies found, Strep­to­coc­cus and Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus au­reus were the most com­mon bac­te­rial coin­fec­tions, which were more com­mon in kids who didn’t have un­der­ly­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.

More than half of the kids who died re­ceived an­tivi­ral or an­tibi­otic treat­ment.

The team said it’s not clear why some kids die so quickly from flu, but they said the shorter du­ra­tion among healthy chil­dren might re­flect dif­fer­ences in health­care-seek­ing be­hav­ior or tim­ing of treat­ment in­ter­ven­tions.

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