October 6, 2008
Staph-Linked Flu Deaths Rise for Children, Report Finds
By LINDSEY TANNER
By Lindsey Tanner
More children have died of the flu because they also had staph infections, according to a new government report that urges parents to have their children get the flu shot.
The number of deaths - 73 - wasn't high during the 2006-07 flu season, but there was more than a fivefold increase in hard-to- treat complications. Also, preliminary figures indicate that deaths increased again during this winter's flu season.
Public health officials say the numbers underscore the importance of a brand new recommendation that all children, from 6 months to 18 years old, get routine flu shots. Before this year, shots were recommended for children younger than 5.
More than half the children who died were between 5 and 17 and had been healthy until they got the flu.
Parents shouldn't panic, "but it's an important message to say even healthy children develop complications ," said Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist who was not involved in the federal study.
This year's vaccine should be widely available this month.
While few children die of the flu virus, it puts about 20,000 U.S. children in the hospital each year.
Only 6 percent of the children studied who died had been fully vaccinated against the flu.
Two doses are recommended each flu season for children ages 6 months to 8 years who have not been vaccinated previously. For older kids, just one dose a year is needed.
The study, appearing in the October edition of Pediatrics , is based on an analysis of reported flu deaths from the 2004-05 through 2006-07 seasons. Flu deaths in children during those seasons totaled 47, 46 and 73, respectively.
Public health officials now advise that all children, from 6 months to 18 years old, receive routine flu shots. Before this year, shots were recommended for children younger than 5 years old.
Originally published by BY LINDSEY TANNER.
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