We live in the era of big data. Computers have allowed the collection and analysis of huge amounts of data that until recently, was unimaginable. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta constantly collects data on every disease imaginable. In an article in the September 2012 edition of the journal Pediatrics, the researchers at the CDC focused on deaths in children from influenza A during the 2009 pandemic.
In the United States, there were 336 pediatric deaths directly linked to the H1N1 germ. 68% of the deaths occurred in children with some kind of underlying medical condition. In other words, the majority of children killed by the H1N1 germ had something wrong with them before they contracted the flu. An astounding 64% had some type of neurologic condition such as cerebral palsy or an intellectual disability. I would have suspected that having asthma would have been the big risk factor not cerebral palsy or developmental disabilities. In our practice, all the children who were admitted to the hospital with severe H1N1 disease during the 2009 pandemic had underlying lung disease not neurologic problems.
So here is the take home message for everyone. Every child should get a flu shot, especially children with cerebral palsy and those with intellectual impairments: hopefully before December. Vaccine supply seems to be plentiful this year so take the time to get your child vaccinated. Without “us” to spread the flu germ around, flu just won’t be able to take hold. Last year, 2011, was the mildest flu season that I can remember in my 30 years of practice. I don’t think that was due to good fortune but rather was a direct effect of so many parents making it a priority to vaccinate their children. Flu epidemics don’t have to happen every winter as long as we stay one step ahead by vaccinating.
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Pediatrics Volume 130, Number 3, September 2012