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Children with Neurological and Neuromuscular Disease at Increased Risk for Flu-Related Respiratory Failure

Armen Hareyan's picture

Flu and Children

Children with neurological and neuromuscular diseases should receive an annual influenza vaccination because of a higher risk of respiratory failure if they are hospitalized with influenza, according to a study in the November 2 issue of JAMA.

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Influenza is a common disease of childhood and is responsible for significant illness, according to background information in the article. Healthy young children are hospitalized for influenza-related illness at rates similar to those for elderly persons and adults with chronic medical conditions. Perhaps most concerning to parents and physicians is the potential for serious influenza-associated complications, including carditis (inflammation of the heart), encephalitis, myositis (inflammation of muscle tissue), pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death.

Population-based studies suggest that individuals with certain chronic medical conditions are at increased risk of serious complications of influenza infection. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has identified 9 groups of chronic medical conditions for which annual influenza vaccination is recommended. They include asthma, chronic lung disease, cardiac disease, immunosuppression, hemoglobinopathies (a blood disease characterized by the presence of abnormal hemoglobins in the blood), chronic renal dysfunction, metabolic and endocrine conditions, long-term salicylate (aspirin and some other drugs) therapy, and pregnancy. Despite the frequency of influenza infection and the prevalence of these chronic medical conditions, little is known about their relative contribution to the development of serious influenza-associated complications.

Ron Keren, M.D., M.P.H., of The Children