U.S. children flu deaths preventable

Sept. 15, 2011 at 10:39 PM
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ATLANTA, Calif., Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Children and teens rarely die due to seasonal flu-related causes but the deaths that have occurred could have been prevented, U.S. health officials say.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says 115 influenza-associated deaths of children and teens age 18 and younger were recorded from September 2010 to August 2011.

"It's vital that children get vaccinated," Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of the CDC's Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team, says in a statement. "We know the flu vaccine isn't 100 percent effective, especially not in children with high risk medical conditions. That's why it's essential that these two medical tools be fully utilized. Vaccinate first; then use influenza anti-viral drugs as a second line of defense against the flu. Right now we aren't fully using the medical tools at our disposal to prevent flu illnesses and deaths in children."

The study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, says among the most notable findings was the infrequent use of the most important influenza prevention measure -- vaccination.

Despite a recommendation for vaccination of all children age 6 months and older having been in place since 2008, only 23 percent of the 74 children older than 6 months who died during the most recent flu season had received the flu vaccine and 50 percent had received anti-viral therapy.

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