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CDC: Flu has killed 105 children so far

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Flu has killed 105 children

This year’s flu season has been a deadly one for children, killing 105 of them so far, most of whom had not been vaccinated against the virus, according to a report Friday from the CDC.

That’s three times the number of children who died from the flu last year, but that number still isn't anywhere near the worst season for child deaths, said the CDC in its weekly report on influenza.

The report also states that 60 percent of deaths occurred in children who were at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, but 40 percent of these children had no recognized chronic health problems. The proportions of pediatric deaths occurring in children who were unvaccinated and those who had high-risk conditions are consistent with what has been seen in previous seasons.

In its flu activity report released yesterday, the CDC reported that an additional six children died from the flu just this past week, bringing the total number of child deaths to 105 this year, compared to 34 last year – and the 2012-2013 flu season isn’t over yet.

“We are getting close to the end of the flu season now but it’s not over,” said CDC flu expert, Dr. Michael Jhung.

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Looking back at flu seasons past, there were 122 children killed during 2010-2011. Before that, 282 children died when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic hit in 2009-2010, and 90 percent of those children killed had not been vaccinated against the flu. While the vaccine that year wasn’t as effective for the elderly, Dr. Jhung said it “actually worked pretty well” in children.

“Children younger than 5 years of age and children of any age with certain chronic health conditions, including asthma or other lung disorders, heart disease, or a neurologic or neurodevelopmental disorder are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu infection,” the report from the CDC states.

Given the flu season isn’t yet over, Jhung advises those who come down with the flu to immediately go to a doctor to obtain one of two antiviral flu medications, Tamiflu or Relenza, as they can help minimize the severity of symptoms. The CDC reports that antiviral meds are effective, but they need to be given within a day or two of getting sick.

Antiviral treatment is recommended for any patients with confirmed or suspected flu who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or ill and at high risk of serious flu-related complications, including young children, people 65 and older, people with certain underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. According to the CDC, treatment should begin as soon as flu is suspected, regardless of vaccination status.

So how do you know who is considered high-risk for developing flu-related complications?

The CDC has a full list of such people available online at People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications. You can also find more information about antiviral drugs and CDC’s recommendations at Antiviral Drugs.

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)