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Child H1N1 Swine Flu Deaths Accelerate

11 Child Deaths in Past Week as H1N1 Swine Flu Sweeps U.S.
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

h1n1_update.jpg

Oct. 16, 2009 -- Eleven children died of H1N1 swine flu last week, raising the October child/teen death toll to 43 -- more pediatric deaths in one month than seen in a bad September-to-May flu season.

Overall, 86 children and teens under age 18 have died from the H1N1 swine flu. Half the deaths have been in teens between the ages of 12 and 17.

"These are very sobering statistics and, unfortunately, they are likely to increase," Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news conference.

Of the 43 pediatric H1N1 swine flu deaths since Sept. 30:

  • Three deaths were in children under age 2.
  • Five deaths were in children ages 2 to 4.
  • 16 deaths were in children ages 5 to 11.
  • 19 deaths were in teens ages 12 to 17.

"This is a very brisk number for a whole season. From September all the way to May you would have only 40 or 50 pediatric deaths, and in just one month's time we have had that many," Schuchat said. "Of course, some have underlying conditions, such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, but some have been completely healthy and this really hits home for people."

She stressed the warning signs for parents to look out for:

  • Difficulty waking
  • Not taking feeding well
  • Trouble breathing
  • A blue or grayish tint to the skin
  • Illness that gets better but begins getting worse.

Child deaths aren't the only sign that H1N1 swine flu is on the rise. Last week, pandemic flu was widespread in 41 states, up from 37 states in the previous week. And deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza -- a measure of flu severity -- went over the "epidemic threshold" for the first time this fall.

"It is unprecedented for this time of year for the whole country to see such levels of influenza activity," Schuchat said.

Slowdown in H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine Production

Meanwhile, manufacturers are having a hard time making as much H1N1 swine flu vaccine as they'd predicted.

The new prediction is that there will be 28 million to 30 million vaccine doses available for order by the end of October -- down from a recent prediction of 40 million doses by that time.

As of Oct. 14, the U.S. had 11.4 million doses on hand, and states had placed orders for 8 million doses -- 2.2 million more doses than had been ordered just two days before.

"We wish we had more, but it doesn't look like we will make our estimates for the end of the month," Schuchat said. "Production estimates will be lower, but do still eventually expect to have the large number of doses we were talking about. But next couple of weeks will continue to be a slow start."

By mid-November, Schuchat said, it's hoped that the vaccine will be readily available in most locations. By the end of December, it's hoped that all 250 million doses the U.S. has purchased will be delivered.

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