The number of children with neurological disorders who die from influenza-related complications is much higher than in the general population, according to a study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study looked at state and local health department statistics regarding influenza-related deaths in children during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
The CDC says that the findings underscore the need for influenza vaccination.
“We’ve known for some time that certain neurologic conditions can put children at high risk for serious complications from influenza,” said Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of the surveillance and outbreak response team in CDC’s Influenza Division.
“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.”
“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,” said study co-author and pediatrician Dr. Georgina Peacock. “These problems are sometimes experienced by children with neurologic disorders,” said Peacock, of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
- The number of deaths during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was more than five times the median number reported in five flu seasons before the pandemic
- 68 percent of these deaths occurred in children with medical conditions that put them at risk for developing serious flu complications
Of the 336 people under the age of 18 who died from influenza complications:
- 64 percent of the children had a neurological disorder such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy or intellectual disabilities
- 23 percent were vaccinated with the seasonal influenza vaccine
- 2 percent were vaccinated for the 2009 H1N1 flu
The CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get an annual influenza vaccine. The research results were published in Pediatrics.