Child H1N1 Swine Flu Deaths Rising

Last Week's 19 Child Deaths Biggest Jump Yet; CDC Releases More Tamiflu

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 30, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 30, 2009 -- Last week's 19 new child deaths is the biggest single-week jump since the H1N1 swine flu pandemic began.

The child death toll in the U.S. pandemic now stands at 114 and is certain to rise, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said today at a news conference.

Frieden announced that the remaining 234,000 courses of Tamiflu liquid have been released from the national stockpile and will be distributed to states according to population. Earlier this month, the CDC released 300,000 courses of the pediatric formulation of the potent flu-fighting drug.

Liquid Tamiflu is in short supply in many areas hard hit by the flu. However, child-size Tamiflu capsules remain available in most areas. In addition, several large-chain pharmacies are having their pharmacists mix up new batches of liquid Tamiflu from adult-size capsules of the flu drug.

"Please don't try this at home," Frieden warned parents. However, if parents receive Tamiflu specifically prescribed for children, and the child can't swallow the capsule, it's OK for parents to open the capsule and mix it with syrup or something the child can swallow. This does not apply to adult-size capsules, which can only be remixed for children by a pharmacist.

There are plentiful supplies of Relenza, an equally effective flu drug. But Relenza can be taken only by children aged 7 and older who do not have asthma or other underlying respiratory diseases.

Frieden said there is no overall shortage of Tamiflu and that new doses of the pediatric liquid formulation would be purchased for the national stockpile early next year.

The real problem with antiviral drugs isn't a shortage, it's that too few people who should take them are seeking medical care.

The CDC finds that only half of people with underlying conditions that put them at risk of severe flu seek medical care when they get flu symptoms. That's playing with fire, as H1N1 swine flu can become deadly very quickly in pregnant women, people with asthma, and people with other risk conditions.