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Study: Even Healthy Kids Can (And Do) Die From the Flu

PHOTO: Health officials are urging parents to consider having their children immunized against influenza whether they have preexisting medical conditions or not. Photo courtesy of Microsoft Images.

PHOTO: Health officials are urging parents to consider having their children immunized against influenza whether they have preexisting medical conditions or not. Photo courtesy of Microsoft Images.


October 31, 2013

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - As flu season sets in, health officials have a warning for parents: Even the healthiest kids are at risk of dying from influenza, according to a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The study found that of the 830 U.S. children who died from the flu between 2004 and 2012, more than 40 percent did not have any underlying medical condition, such as asthma or heart disease, that would put them at risk for complications.

AAP president and pediatrician Dr. Lia Gaggino said the flu can spiral downward very quickly for even the healthiest kids.

"Ear infections, pneumonias and sinus infections as secondary complications - a lot of times, what the kids will die from are pneumonias," Gaggino said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone older than six months be vaccinated against the flu if there are no health reasons preventing the immunizations, such as allergies. Frequent hand-washing and sanitation of public surfaces can also minimize virus exposure. Gaggino stressed that while the vaccine can trigger a short-lived immune response that could cause some fatigue or soreness, there is no way to contract the virus from a flu shot or nasal spray.

While Gaggino admitted it is difficult for researchers who make the flu vaccine to predict which strains will dominate in any given year, she said this year there are two different vaccines, and both offer wide protection from several viruses.

"One covers the H1NI, the H3N2 and a third strain. The quadrivalent - the newer one - includes an additional virus," she explained.

Including seven in Michigan, 158 children across the country died from influenza-related causes during the 2012-2013 flu season.

The full AAP study is available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI