Children have been shown to be highly vulnerable when it comes to catching the H1N1 flu. Furthermore, children with asthma seem to be more likely to develop serious symptoms and complications. This is according to a study conducted by researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The researchers looked at the charts of 58 pediatric H1N1 patients admitted to the said hospital between May and July of this year and compared them with 200 other pediatric patients who were admitted due to the seasonal flu from 2004 and 2008. The study showed that
- Children admitted for H1N1 flu tended to be older (5 years or older) than those admitted for seasonal flu.
- 84% of H1N1 pediatric patients had fever and cough; 37% had gastrointestinal problems including diarrhea and vomiting
- 22% of children who had the H1N1 flu had asthma; only 6% of those who had the seasonal had asthma.
- Almost 50% of pediatric patients admitted to the ICU due to H1N1 flu had asthma.
- In larger samples, 21 to 30% of hospitalizes H1N1 cases are linked to asthma.
According to researcher Dr. Upton Allen
“The most striking finding in our study was the high prevalence of asthma among children admitted with pandemic H1N1 influenza compared with those admitted in previous influenza seasons. Asthma has been identified as a significant risk factor for admission with pandemic H1N1 influenza, present in 21%-30% in the larger samples.”
This finding indicates that asthma is a major risk factor for severe H1N1 symptoms especially in children, even among those with mild asthma. The authors recommend that children with asthma be considered as high risk individuals and should be vaccinated for H1N1 and considered fro antiviral therapy.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, 138 deaths among children have been attributed to the H1N1 influenza virus infections in US from August 30 to November 14, 2009. This number could be broken down into the following age groups:
- 24 deaths in children less than 2 years old
- 16 deaths in children 2-4 years old
- 50 deaths in children 5-11 years old
- 48 deaths in children 12-17 years old
Epidemiology experts believe that the best way to control the H1N1 flu is to start vaccinating children. According to Dr. David Kimberlin of the University of Alabama at Birmingham
“Children are the highest-risk group for spreading the virus among themselves, and as a consequence, spreading it around their community… Like a bull’s-eye, the middle of the target is what you vaccinate so you don’t see infections in the concentric rings around the center. The center of the protection bull’s-eye should be children.”