CDC study: Swine flu deaths higher in older kids

Sep 03, 2009 By MIKE STOBBE , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- About one in 13 U.S. swine flu deaths have been children and most of the kids have been of school age, the federal government said Thursday in its first study of the new flu's youngest victims.

More than 40 U.S. children have died from the virus since it was first identified in this country in April. The report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes a comprehensive look at the first 36 deaths, and found some important differences in the pediatric death toll from swine flu as compared to seasonal flu:

- Normally, half or more of the children who die from flu are age 4 and younger. But more than 80 percent of the kids who died with swine flu were 5 or older.

- Almost two-thirds of the children who died with swine flu had epilepsy, cerebral palsy or other neurodevelopmental conditions. In a previous flu season, only a third of pediatric deaths had those conditions.

- Bacterial co-infections were a big danger, and were blamed in most of the deaths of otherwise healthy children. Co-infections usually occur when a patient, weakened by a virus, then gets hit by a bacterial bug.

The CDC released the report through one of its publications, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Swine flu has caused more than 1 million illnesses in the United States, the CDC estimates. More than 550 deaths and 8,800 hospitalizations have been reported to date.

It's hard to say whether children have accounted for a higher proportion of deaths from swine flu than they normally do from seasonal flu, though CDC officials say that seems to be true. The CDC doesn't monitor seasonal flu deaths as closely as it does swine flu, and it has no comprehensive count of annual seasonal flu deaths to enable such a comparison.

The new report focuses on lab-confirmed swine flu deaths reported through Aug. 8. The CDC hasn't been able to do as complete an analysis of cases that have come in since then, said Dr. Cynthia Moore, a CDC medical officer who was one of the study's co-authors.

Through Aug. 8, there were 477 total swine flu deaths, including 36 in children.

Only about 20 percent of those children were age 4 or younger. That's unusual: Often 50 percent or more of deaths are in infants and toddlers, who have less mature immune systems and smaller air passages and are generally in more danger from respiratory infections.

"There's a lot of school-aged children" in the death count, said Dr. Beth Bell, a CDC epidemiologist who is a leader in the agency's swine flu response efforts.

It's not clear why such a large percentage of the swine flu pediatric deaths are in kids aged 5 and older. It simply may be because older children were more likely to encounter the virus - at schools, summer camps - than very young children who spend more time at home, Bell said.

The initial numbers in the report are small and the CDC will need to look at more reports to see if the trends hold up, CDC officials said.

Two-thirds of the children who died had high-risk medical conditions. Nearly all of them had an illness related to the nervous system, including mental retardation, cerebral palsy and epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

Years ago experts recognized that children with neurodevelopmental conditions are at higher risk of serious complications from the flu. But the proportion of swine flu victims with that kind of underlying condition was swine flu percentages are high compared to a previous flu season, CDC officials said.

It's not clear how significant that finding is, because many of the children had other medical problems that had weakened their bodies, CDC officials said.

Of the who were healthy before they got swine flu, many were probably killed by a one-two punch of swine flu working with a bacterial co-infection, CDC officials said.

Bacterial co-infections have been an increasingly noticed danger since the government started tracking pediatric flu deaths in 2004. So their occurrence with was not a surprise, but emphasized the needs for parents and doctors to be alert to the danger and give the child antibiotics when appropriate, CDC officials said.

---

On the Net:

CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Hospitals should follow CDC recommendations for Ebola care

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US swine flu deaths rise to 263

Jul 17, 2009

(AP) -- Health officials say their count of U.S. swine flu cases has surpassed 40,000, and deaths have risen to 263.

Obesity a risk factor in swine flu?

Jul 10, 2009

(AP) -- Some swine flu cases in Michigan are raising questions about obesity's role in why some people with infections become seriously ill.

Flu drug advised for pregnant women with swine flu

May 12, 2009

(AP) -- Pregnant women should take prescription flu medicines if they are diagnosed with the new swine flu, health officials said Tuesday. So far, the swine flu has not proven to be much more dangerous than seasonal influenza, ...

Recommended for you

Girls in Colombian town struck by mystery illness

5 minutes ago

A mystery illness has overwhelmed a small town in northern Colombia as scores of teenage girls have been hospitalized with symptoms that parents fear could be an adverse reaction to a popular vaccine against cervical cancer.

Oral contraceptive equal to antibiotics for acne care

7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—At six months, oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are comparable to systemic antibiotics for acne management, according to a review published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Ac ...

Photodynamic therapy vs. cryotherapy for actinic keratoses

8 hours ago

Photodynamic therapy (PDT, which uses topical agents and light to kill tissue) appears to better clear actinic keratoses (AKs, a common skin lesion caused by sun damage) at three months after treatment than cryotherapy (which ...

US official warns Ebola outbreak will get worse

10 hours ago

A third top doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday, as a leading American health official warned that the outbreak sweeping West Africa would get worse before it ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Velanarris
not rated yet Sep 03, 2009
The CDC doesn't monitor seasonal flu deaths as closely as it does swine flu, and it has no comprehensive count of annual seasonal flu deaths to enable such a comparison.
Bacterial co-infections have been an increasingly noticed danger since the government started tracking pediatric flu deaths in 2004. So their occurrence with swine flu was not a surprise, but emphasized the needs for parents and doctors to be alert to the danger and give the child antibiotics when appropriate, CDC officials said.



So you're recording the stats but half-assing it or you're recording the stats and the abstract author is wrong?