Even for Healthy Kids, Flu Can Be Deadly

Flu vaccination for kids is very important

(RxWiki News) So you think your kid is as healthy as a horse, and getting a flu shot is an unnecessary precaution? Think again: Even children with no other health conditions can lose a battle with flu.

Almost half of children who died from flu had no pre-existing health conditions that would have marked them as “at risk” for complications from flu, according to a new study.

Recent findings highlight the importance of vaccinating school aged children against flu. In fact, schools that had programs to vaccinate children had fewer cases of flu, and better attendance throughout the year.

"Listen to your doctor - vaccinate against the flu."

Studies about pediatric flu were presented at IDWeek 2012, a conference on infectious diseases sponsored by several medical societies.

The first study, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was led by Dr. Karen Wong. She looked at pediatric deaths caused by flu between 2004 and 2012.

During that time, 817 children died from flu. Of the 781 who had a medical history that Dr. Wong was able to study, 43 percent had no high-risk conditions.

That means that there was no indication that these children would have more trouble with the illness than any other child. But even more surprising, they died more quickly than the children who had health conditions that put them in the high-risk group.

Those high-risk health conditions include diabetes, asthma, neurologic conditions and chromosomal disorders. The median age of death for all children was seven.

Dr. Wong concluded that flu can be fatal in either circumstance, and that influenza vaccination should be a “high priority for all children.”

Another study led by Dr. Pia Pannaraj, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California and Children's Hospital Los Angeles, examined the effectiveness of immunization programs in Los Angeles.

Nearly five thousand children participated in eight schools. Half of the schools had the immunization program, and the other half acted as a control, with no in-school program.

In the schools with the program, 27 to 43 percent of children received a dose of the flu vaccine. The study found that unvaccinated children in any school were more likely to get the flu than vaccinated children.

That might seem obvious. But there was also a boost in what's called “herd immunity” - the benefit that all children get from more children having been immunized.

Unvaccinated children in the schools with the program were half as likely to get the flu than those who were in the schools without the program.

"Schools are the best place for a campaign to prevent the spread of influenza," Dr. Pannaraj said in a press release. Schools can either be a place where children are likely to get sick, or it can be a place where they can easily prevent the spread of flu, she said.

Both studies were presented at IDWeek in October 2012.  Research presented at academic conferences should be considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
October 23, 2012