Top priority flu shots for children with neurological and neuromuscular disease

According to a new study children suffering from muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and other such conditions, have a much higher risk of severe complications from influenza, re-affirming the need for them to be vaccinated each year.

Dr Ron Keren, a physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who was the chief author of the study, looked at 745 children hospitalized with flu and found that those "with neurological and neuromuscular disease were at the greatest risk of developing breathing problems that would require them to be put on a breathing machine.

The study covered four consecutive flu seasons from June 2000 through May 2004.

A panel of experts which advise the U.S. government on vaccinations recently added children and adults with neurological and neuromuscular diseases to the list of people with chronic conditions such as asthma for whom annual flu vaccinations are recommended.

The study says that children with these conditions have a "significantly increased probability of respiratory failure" once hospitalized with flu, and concluded that coordinated efforts are needed to educate parents, primary care pediatricians and pediatric neurologists about the risks of serious influenza complications and the need for annual vaccination for such children.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while the entire population is eligible for a flu shot, initial priority should also be given to certain groups such as anyone age 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities and anyone age 2 to 64 with certain chronic health conditions.

The study is published in the current edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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