Healthy Kids Still Die Of The Flu, Research Finds

A new report examining the flu shot and the risk posed by a bout of flu in healthy children indicates that an alarming number of childhood flu deaths are in children with no clear health risk present.

Deaths from flu in healthy children were examined in a new Pediatrics report, in which findings indicate a frightening 830 flu deaths in children occurred between 2004 and 2012.

Certain portions of the population are vulnerable to complications from the flu, but even more worrisome are other findings in the report. More than 40 percent of the kids who succumbed to complications of the flu did not have a condition such as asthma or a heart concern to tip off parents and providers to a possibly fatal outcome.

According to LiveScience, the previously healthy children who died after contracting the flu between 2004 and 2012 were more likely to succumb quickly — within three days of symptom onset. They were also twice as likely to die before they could be hospitalized, which seems to suggest not only a rapid onset of symptoms, but a rapid decline in health.

Dr. Karen Wong, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), worked on the study and says that researchers fear many people are not aware of the speed with which flu can gravely sicken people. Wong says:

“Healthy kids are at risk, too. I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t recognize… People can get very sick very quickly, even if they don’t have an underlying medical condition.”

Of the 830 children in the study who died of the flu in the eight-year long period, 511 were eligible to receive a flu vaccination. And of that 511, 16 percent had been vaccinated for the flu, with the remaining 84 percent unvaccinated.

Wong is also quoted by the New York Times regarding healthy kids dying of flu, and the benefit of flu vaccines. Wong explained to the paper that parents need to realize risk exists for healthy kids as well as their compromised classmates, and she says:

“A lot of parents don’t think of flu as being very serious, especially if their child is healthy… But this study shows that even healthy children are at risk, and that’s why it’s important for every child to get vaccinated.”

During the course of the flu shot study, recommendations for flu vaccination changed per the CDC. In 2008, the agency amended its recommendations to suggest all healthy people over the age of six months receive a flu shot each year.