Kids under two at greater risk of flu related death

Seasonal flu deaths have been studied and it has been seen that since 2009, over the six seasons of flu with the H1N1 strain of the virus, children under 2 years of age are most likely to succumb. Less than one third of these babies that died had received a vaccination against the flu virus.

The report states that this season, already 63 deaths among children have been recorded and the peak is yet to be reached with the flu season just beginning. The number of cases already is similar to the 2009 and 2010 flu seasons that killed many children in a pandemic. The latest analysis comes from the researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and was published in the latest online edition of Pediatrics.

Deaths due to flu in babies have been notifiable since 2004 and it is because of this that the CDC can keep tracks of the number of deaths and other details of the victims. The deaths were least in the flu season of 2011 and 2012 at 37 and most during the H1N1 pandemic at 358 deaths. Since 2010, the CDC has recommended flu vaccines to all babies over 6 months of age. Last year 76.3% children between ages 6 to 23 months have been covered with flu shots, the agency notes.

For this latest study, the team of researchers looked at the information regarding the pediatric deaths due to flu that have been confirmed between time periods 2010-2011 and 2015-2016. They found that there were a total of 675 deaths in children less than 18 years during this time. An average of 113 deaths occurred each year. The highest number of deaths were reported in the age group of less than 6 months and then babies between 6 and 23 months of age. Further only 31 percent of the babies over 6 months that died of flue had received the flu vaccines.

Then the researchers took a closer look at the clinical picture of the babies that succumbed to flu and noted that in babies, the course of the infection to death is very quick. On an average, 65 percent of the babies died within 7 days of the onset of the infection. The babies who had other health conditions were more vulnerable but around half of the babies were healthy before they contracted flu, the report finds. They found that bacterial infections with Streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus were most commonly seen in these flu infection victims, especially those who did not have another underlying health condition. The course of the infection with flu and death was faster among babies that were previously healthy, they noted. Over half of the babies that died had been administered antibiotics and antiviral drugs for treatment of the infections.

The researchers pondered over the question of why the previously healthy babies ran a swifter course to death due to flu with shorter illnesses. They speculated that healthcare-seeking behavior might be lacking among these families and babies and that could be the reason behind this finding. Influenza B deaths further were more than deaths due to influenza A they noted.

The team recommends that from this study a wider vaccination coverage of the babies is the need of the day to reduce these numbers especially among the younger children. Further they recommend that all babies with flu need to be administered with antiviral drugs early on to prevent complications. Antibiotics to combat the bacterial co-infections are also a necessary measure to prevent deaths due to flu they add.

Ananya Mandal

Written by

Ananya Mandal

Ananya is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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