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Which Kids Die of Flu?

CDC: Children Under Age 5 at Risk of Severe Flu

Kids at Highest Flu Risk

The most common risk factors among kids who died of flu were neurologic conditions. Over a quarter of pediatric deaths -- 27% -- were in such kids. Conditions included:

  • Moderate or severe developmental delay -- 19% of child flu deaths
  • Seizure disorder -- 12% of child flu deaths
  • Cerebral palsy -- 8% of child flu deaths
  • Neuromuscular disorder -- 4% of child flu deaths
  • Other neurological disorders -- 7% of child flu deaths

"These are the kids who die of flu every year," Finelli says. "It is very important that parents and doctors get these kids vaccinated."

Kids with underlying lung diseases, including asthma, made up 15% of child flu deaths.

Flu Drugs Given Too Late

The CDC report identifies a glaring problem with how kids with flu are treated: getting antiviral flu drugs, such as Tamiflu, too late.

Half the kids who died in a hospital or emergency department never received antiviral flu drugs. That's probably because doctors waited for the results of flu tests before ordering the medication.

"We did not see an optimal number of kids treated among those who died," Finelli says. "They should start antiviral agents even before they test for flu. They can test for flu in the meantime, but antiviral agents save lives. They should be given at the soonest opportunity to children with severe flu symptoms."

The CDC report appears in the Sept. 15 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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