Many children with flu died in days |
Only one-third were considered high risk;
CDC urges vaccinations
Dec 18, 2005
One-third of the 153 American children killed by the flu during
the 2003-'04 season were dead within three days of getting sick, and many of the
youngsters were perfectly healthy before they were stricken, government
Five percent of the victims died within a day, 31% died before getting medical
care, and 10% died in the emergency room, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention said in its first detailed report on flu deaths among children.
Nearly two-thirds of the deaths were in children under 5, and 12% were younger
than 6 months.
Overall, the 2003-'04 flu season was not particularly severe, but it got off to
an alarmingly early start.
The lead researcher, epidemiologist Niranjan Bhat of CDC's influenza branch,
said two findings surprised him: how fast the illnesses developed, and the
number of children who were perfectly healthy.
Only one-third had asthma or other respiratory conditions that would have put
them at high risk for flu complications.
However, the CDC also found that one-fifth of those killed had other conditions
that could have made them more vulnerable but were not linked previously to flu
complications. Those included neurological and neuromuscular disorders such as
cerebral palsy that can limit someone's ability to cough up respiratory
Bhat said the total number of deaths among children was probably more than 153;
the CDC did not ask states to report flu deaths until well into the season.
The study was reported in the latest issue of the New England Journal of
Bhat said the findings led CDC's immunization advisory committee, starting with
last year's flu season, to urge that all children 6 months to 23 months old get
New England Journal of Medicine:
www.nejm.org CDC flu site: