Cerebral Palsy Children at Higher Risk for Flu Complications
More than 40 U.S. children have died from the H1N1 (swine flu) virus since it was first identified in this country in April. Almost two-thirds of the children who died had epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or other neurodevelopmental conditions, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the 2003-2004 flu season, only a third of pediatric deaths had those conditions.
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that cause physical disability that occur due to injury or abnormalities of the brain. Cerebral refers to the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain and the part most commonly affected. Palsy refers to the disorder of movement.
Most of these problems occur as the baby grows in the womb, but can happen at any time during the first 2 years of life, while the brain is rapidly developing. In the United States, approximately 10,000 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year.
Bacterial infections, particularly pneumococcus, are one of the major causes of flu complications. These can take advantage of a weakened immune system and cause pneumonia.
Neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders and other neuromuscular disorders may have decreased respiratory function. This may result in a decreased ability to clear respiratory secretions. These patients are among those considered at high risk and should receive the H1N1 vaccine as it is available.
As of September 2009, swine flu has caused more than 1 million illnesses in the United States, the CDC estimates. More than 550 deaths and 8,800 hospitalizations have been reported to date.
Sources: US National Library of Health, Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke