If you need another reason to obtain a flu shot for yourself or your child this year (and EVERY YEAR) I would like to share some newly available information on the impact of "seasonal influenza" on children. An article in this month's (November) issue of The Journal of Pediatrics by Drs. Dawood and colleagues ( Burden of Seasonal Influenza Hospitalization in Children, United States, 2003 to 2008) discusses the incidence of serious infections in children less than 18 caused by documented influenza over the 5 seasons that were studied. Although the severity of illness seems to vary from year to year, one thing is certain: even healthy children can become sick enough to be hospitalized, require life support (mechanical ventilation) or to die from influenza. Children under the age of 6 months had the highest rate of hospital admission in all of the years studied. As you can see in the graph below, for every year, the darkest bar, which represents children less than 6 months of age, had a much higher rate of being admitted to the hospital, than children in any other age groups. One reason for that, of course is that children less than 6 months of age cannot be immunized. Therefore, it is essential that everyone around them be immunized, so their friends and family members are less likely to transmit the flu to this very vulnerable age group.
In contrast to hospitalization rate, the likelihood of dying from influenza seems to be highest in children aged 5-17 years. Of the seventeen childhood deaths from the studied population during the years reported, only one occurred in the less than 6 month age group. Fifteen of the seventeen who died were either NOT IMMUNIZED or were only partially immunized. Now, no one can predict how severe the influenza season will be, but we do know that it will come each year, and that immunizing children and the folks around them can be very helpful in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from seasonal influenza.
PLEASE SEE YOUR CHILD'S HEALTHCARE PROVIDER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO BEGIN THE IMMUNIZATION PROCESS. PLEASE HAVE YOURSELF IMMUNIZED, ESPECIALLY IF YOUR CHILD IS LESS THAN SIX MONTHS OF AGE.