Infectious Diseases
Dr checking child with cerebral palsy

The Flu is a Killer

Dr checking child with cerebral palsy
Isabelle Esteves's image for:
"The Flu is a Killer"
Caption: Dr checking child with cerebral palsy
Image by: United States Navy

As flu season 2012/13 approaches, the CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has released a report that has caused a great deal of concern among parents of children with neurological disorders. In the report, which was released on August 29, 2012, the CDC notes that their research has shown that a disportionate number of children with neurological disorders died in the pandemic of 2009 from complications as a result of the H1N1 influenza virus. The research was conducted by scientists from the CDC and was published in the journal Pediatrics in an article entitled "Neurologic Disorders Among Pediatric Deaths Associated With the 2009 Pandemic Influenza".   

The researchers looked at reports of deaths among children, under the age of 18, during the 2009 flu season that were received by the CDC. They compared the data for children both with and without neurological disorders. What they found was that of the 336 deaths reported, 227 were of children who had at least one condition that would have increased their risk from the flu virus. Of the 227, 146 had neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy. They also noticed that the children with neurological disorders tended to be older and to have been sick for a longer period of time from the onset of the flu until their death. It was also noted that many of the children who had neurological disorders also had additional risk factors that put them at more risk for complications from the flu virus.

More of the children who had neurological disorders died in hospitals and emergency rooms as well, which makes sense since they were not perfectly healthy before the onset of the flu and their parents would have been more likely to have been fearful of the complications. The results of this study showed that almost 66% of the deaths of children as a result of the H1N1 virus were to children who had neurological disorders.

The two most common complications that children with neurological disorders suffered from in this study were influenza-associated pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Dr. Lyn Finelli of the CDC’s Influenza Division stated, "We've known for some time that certain neurologic conditions can put children at high risk for serious complications from influenza, however, the high percentage of pediatric deaths associated with neurologic disorders that occurred during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was a somber reminder of the harm that flu can cause to children with neurologic and neurodevelopmental disorders."

The study coauthor Dr. Georgina Peacock added "Flu is particularly dangerous for people who may have trouble with muscle function, lung function or difficulty coughing, swallowing or clearing fluids from their airways. These problems are sometimes experienced by children with neurologic disorders."

The CDC recommends that all children older than 6 month of age, even those with neurological disorders receive an annual flu vaccine. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine is the best prevention method available with antiviral drugs, being a second line of defense against flu.

More about this author: Isabelle Esteves

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