H1N1 more risky than seasonal flu in children with sickle cell disease

Dec 07, 2009

Infection with the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, causes more life-threatening complications than seasonal flu in children with sickle cell disease, according to research from Johns Hopkins Children's Center. The findings, to be presented on Dec. 7 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, warn parents and caregivers that such children are more likely to need emergency treatment and stays in an intensive-care unit.

The researchers analyzed the records of 118 children with treated for any kind of flu at Hopkins Children's between September of 1993 and November of 2009. Of them, 28 were infected with the H1N1 virus, a new strain that emerged for the first time in April of 2009.

While both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus caused similar general symptoms like fever, cough and a runny nose in most of the children, sickle cell patients infected with H1N1 were three times more likely to develop acute chest syndrome, a leading cause of death among these patients, marked by inflammation of the lungs, reduced oxygen capacity and shortness of breath. H1N1-infected children were five times more likely to end up in the intensive-care unit, and were overall more likely to end up on a ventilator and more likely to need a than those with seasonal flu.

Another Hopkins Children's study, released earlier this year, found that children with sickle cell disease are hospitalized with seasonal flu nearly 80 times more often than other children.

The researchers say their findings point to the need to include children with sickle cell disease in the list of those who must be immunized against all flu strains, which already includes children with asthma, diabetes, heart disease and other .

"Children with sickle cell disease are hospitalized about once a year for pain crises and other complications, so we should do everything we can to prevent hospitalization from the flu by using safe and effective vaccines," says lead investigator John J. Strouse, M.D. Ph.D., a pediatric hematologist at Hopkins Children's.

Named for the unusually sickle-shaped red blood cells caused by a genetic abnormality, sickle cell anemia affects nearly 100,000 Americans. The cells' abnormal structure reduces their oxygen delivery to vital organs and causes them to get stuck in the blood vessels, leading to severe pain and so-called "sickling crises," which require hospitalization.

The CDC recommends that all children over 6 months of age get seasonal and H1N1 flu shots, except those who are allergic to eggs or have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Explore further: Ebola-hit Liberia delays school reopening

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Ebola-hit Liberia delays school reopening

5 hours ago

Liberia's education ministry said on Sunday it had postponed by two weeks the reopening of the country's schools, which were closed six months ago to limit the spread of the Ebola virus.

Ebola: timeline of a ruthless killer

14 hours ago

Here are key dates in the current Ebola epidemic, the worst ever outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever which first surfaced in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

Jan 31, 2015

As Africa's leaders meet in Ethiopia to discuss the Ebola crisis, expectations of firm action will be tempered by criticism over the continent's poor record in the early stages of the epidemic.

Second bird flu case confirmed in Canada

Jan 30, 2015

The husband of a Canadian who was diagnosed earlier this week with bird flu after returning from a trip to China has also tested positive for the virus, health officials said Friday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.