Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Which Kids Die of Flu?

CDC: Children Under Age 5 at Risk of Severe Flu
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 15, 2011 -- Being younger than 5 years old is a risk factor for severe flu, a CDC analysis of last season's child flu deaths suggests.

There were 115 confirmed child flu deaths from Sept. 1, 2010, through Aug. 31, 2011. The number includes all infants, children, and teens under age 18.

But not included is the much larger number of kids who died of flu but were not tested or officially reported, says Lyn Finelli, DrPH, chief of the CDC's surveillance and outbreak response team.

"Many, many pediatric deaths are not reported because not all kids with symptoms of flu are tested," Finelli tells WebMD. "We know this number of reported case is a fraction of pediatric flu deaths. As we do more surveillance, we will get a better picture of the true number. It is an important question."

Children only rarely die of flu. But the illness can be much more severe than most parents think. Just under half of the reported child flu deaths -- 49% -- were in kids with no underlying illness or other risk factor for severe flu.

However, 46% of kids who died last flu season were under age 5. And 29% were under age 2.

"The report underscores the fact that young age is itself a risk factor," a CDC news release notes.

Vaccine Failure

More than four out of five kids who died of flu were not fully vaccinated. That is sad, but not surprising. What seems odd is that 23% of the deaths were among kids who were fully vaccinated.

Part of the reason is that most of these fully vaccinated kids had underlying illnesses. The flu vaccine does make most of these children far less susceptible to serious flu. But underlying illness chips away at a person's immune system, making vaccines somewhat less effective than in healthy people.

And 12% of the child deaths were in fully vaccinated kids with no underlying illness. How could this happen?

"There are always vaccine failures," Finelli says. "Say a vaccine is 90% effective. You are going to see those 10% of vaccine failures in statistics on deaths and hospitalizations. It makes you think the vaccine works less well than it does. You never see the vast majority of people for whom the vaccine works."

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat