Thursday, October 31st, 2013
A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, reports that children should receive flu shots because seasonal influenza can be life-threatening even in children without known risk factors. The study found that 830 children died between 2004 and 2012, and that 43 percent of those children had no risk factors or immune issues at the time of their death. More from The New York Times:
Recommendations for vaccination changed over the period, but since 2008, the C.D.C. has recommended a flu shot for everyone 6 months or older.
Of the 511 children whose vaccination status was known, 84 percent had not had a flu shot. In the 2009-10 flu season, when 66 children with a known vaccination status died, 64 of them were unvaccinated.
Death often came quickly: most of the children died within a week of the appearance of symptoms, and a third of them died outside the hospital or in an emergency room.
“A lot of parents don’t think of flu as being very serious, especially if their child is healthy” said the lead author, Dr. Karen K. Wong, a medical officer with the C.D.C. “But this study shows that even healthy children are at risk, and that’s why it’s important for every child to get vaccinated.”
Image: Baby receiving a flu shot, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 27th, 2013
Efforts by public health officials to encourage families to have their children vaccinated against seasonal flu appear to be paying off, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that more children than ever received the vaccine in the 2012-2013 season. More from Time.com:
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The researchers say the increase is encouraging for this year’s numbers as well.
Last season, 56.6% of kids between the ages 6 months to 17-years-old were vaccinated, a 5.1% increase from the year prior. Smaller — but still notable — increases were seen among adult populations too, which were up 2.7%. Overall, 45% of the U.S. population got a flu shot last year.
Although rates are up across the board, there are some disparities among ethnic and racial groups. However, the traditional ethnic and racial disparities were not seen among U.S. children.
The numbers were announced during a press conference with Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Dr. Anne Schuchat, the Assistant Surgeon General.
The increases are remarkable because they indicate that public health messaging is getting through to the right groups. The U.S. made a universal recommendation in 2010 that everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccines. But that doesn’t mean the push for more vaccinating will relax. “Despite substantial progress, we can do even more to make our country healthier through prevention. Flu vaccination should represent a simple investment we make year in and year out to maximize the gift of health,” said Dr. Koh.
Monday, March 25th, 2013
The seasonal flu claimed the lives of 105 children, almost none of whom receives their annual flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting. That figure is more than triple the usual number of children who die from seasonal flu, according to NBCNews.com:
“We are getting close to the end of the flu season now but it’s not over,” says CDC flu expert Dr. Michael Jhung.
Deaths from flu and pneumonia are “barely” above the annual level designated as “epidemic”, he said. “We get an epidemic of flu every year,” Jhung added in a telephone interview. “It’s just the flu season. We assign the name epidemic to it.”
Officials reported that six children died of flu last week, the CDC said. That brings the total to 105 for this season, compared to 34 last year. But in the 2010-2011 flu season 122 died, and when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic hit in 2009-2010, it killed 282 U.S. children.
Most of the children who died – 90 percent of them – had not been vaccinated against flu.
This may be confusing, as CDC had reported that the flu vaccine was not especially effective in those most at risk from flu – the elderly. But Jhung says it protects children pretty well.
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Friday, February 15th, 2013
Some schools who offer award incentives to students who have perfect attendance are reconsidering their policies amid concerns that it might encourage ambitious students to come to school when they are contagious from the seasonal flu. More from NBC News:
Round Meadow Elementary School gives awards to the handful of students who make it through an entire school year with a perfect attendance record – that means no absences, no tardies, and no early sign-outs. (No exceptions.)
But the school, in Hidden Hills, Calif., may change its policy for the 2013-14 school year, says principal Jeremy Resnick. The flu has hit students and staff hard this year, and he doesn’t want to encourage kids to come to school, or their parents to send them, when they have a potentially contagious disease.
Despite automated phone calls reminding parents that their children should stay home if they have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, “we think there are probably people who are sending their kids to school when they shouldn’t,” he says.
That’s one of the reasons many schools ditched that type of award because of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, says Andrea Vazzana, a child and adolescent psychologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center. And others, like Round Meadow, are reconsidering in light of this year’s flu and norovirus outbreaks.
For now, the award is in place, but Resnick says he tries to keep it low key – a paper certificate and maybe a gift certificate to a local restaurant – so as not to make it too tempting to come to school sick. Fewer than a dozen of the school’s 550-odd students get the award each year, and out of nine elementary schools in the district, Round Meadow is one of the only schools to still have an annual perfect attendence.
Schools are right to be cautious. Like offices, classrooms and hallways are great places for infectious diseases to spread, with close contact between students and plenty of shared surfaces. (Let’s not even talk about the nose-picking and pencil-sucking habits of younger kids.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children stay home from school until their temperatures measure below 100 degrees, without medication, for 24 hours.
Image: Girl wiping her nose, via Shutterstock
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Monday, February 11th, 2013
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data Friday that should give families across the country a bit of encouragement–the number of new cases of seasonal influenza, or flu, decreased in early February in most areas of the U.S. More from CNN.com:
The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Friday, concludes that “influenza activity remained elevated in the United States, but decreased in most areas” in the week of January 27 to February 2, for which the latest information is available.
In the latest report, 38 states reported widespread influenza activity, down from 42 the week before.
Although the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness, 3.6%, is still above the national baseline of 2.2%, it is lower than the previous week’s estimate of 4.2%.
The disease is still claiming lives, however.
“The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was above the epidemic threshold,” the report said.
The number of pediatric deaths from influenza rose by 14, for a total of 59 this season. While that is more than the 34 pediatric deaths for all of last year’s season, it is much lower than the 153 pediatric deaths in the 2003 to 2004 season, which saw a similar H3N2 virus responsible for a lot of illness, for example. Adult deaths due to flu are not tracked by the CDC.
Image: Girl blowing nose, via Shutterstock
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