By: Curley, Ann J.
A new study led by Dr. Karen Wong of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presented at IDWeek 2012, indicates that 829 children under age 18 died from flu-related causes from 2004 to 2012. Of these deaths, 40 percent involved children with no known medical condition, 33 percent were children under age five, and 11 percent were children under six months. Among healthy children, the period from symptoms to death was a median of four days, versus seven days for children with pre-existing conditions. A separate study also presented at the event followed 4,500 elementary school students in eight schools in Los Angeles County during the 2010-2011 flu season. The researchers found that of the 50 percent of the schools with a school-based flu vaccination program, 30 percent to 50 percent of the children in these schools were immunized. “We found that children who were vaccinated were three times less likely to get the flu and missed half the number of school days compared to children who were not vaccinated,” says Dr. Pia Pannaraj, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “In our schools that had school-based influenza vaccination programs, their rates of influenza overall at the entire school were lower than at schools that did not have any vaccination program.” Unvaccinated children also received some protection from the flu at schools with vaccination rates around 50 percent. Experts say the best way to protect children is for everyone age six months and up to receive the flu vaccine, including pregnant women, and for parents, relatives, and caregivers to be immunized to protect babies who are too young to receive the vaccine.