In the USA, we’re nearing the heart of the flu season, with pediatric flu deaths peaking during the next 8-10 weeks. So far in the 2015-16 flu season (which generally starts on October 1), the CDC has reported that there have been 7 pediatric flu deaths through the 4th week of December. This is unchanged from the previous report.
Now, I know some of you may say “only 7,” but since pediatric flu is mostly prevented with a vaccine, we could prevent these 7 deaths. Moreover, it’s early. During the last 3 years, there were 171 pediatric flu deaths in 2012-13, 11 in 2013-14, and 148 in 2014-15 – most of the pediatric flu deaths happened after this week.
It seems that the the numbers are lower, so far, than in previous years. However, this flu season may be several weeks late, probably as a result of warmer weather (no, warm weather does not block the flu). Flu mortality across all ages crossed the threshold for an “epidemic” last week, so these numbers might increase. Let’s hope they don’t, but as opposed to what people believe, flu is dangerous.
Pediatric flu deaths – background
Most people will recover from influenza within a few days to less than two weeks However, some individuals will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu – many of these complications can result in hospitalization, and, in the most serious cases, might result in death.
A case of the flu can make chronic health problems worse. People with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition which can be deadly.
The problem is worse for children. The flu can be dangerous even if there are no underlying chronic conditions. A healthy baby can be put at high risk if they contract the flu. Again, a flu that can be mostly prevented by a vaccine.
Most pediatric flu deaths are in unvaccinated children. Let me repeat that–children not vaccinated against the flu are at higher risk of death.
Some people may think that most of these deaths happen to unhealthy young children. But if I may cherry pick a story, here’s one about a 12 year old girl in St. Louis. Athletic and healthy, she contracted the flu and nearly died. Even though she survived, her lungs were scarred which may prevent her from being very active.
One of those pediatric flu deaths
During the third week of January 2016, a 12 year old Washington state girl died of kidney failure as a result of the flu. She was a relatively normal girl, who had asthma which was unrelated to her flu complications for those of you who want to blame that condition.
The young girl came down with a high fever, and her physician treated her with Tamiflu (which is not perfect in treating flu, especially after severe symptoms appear). But her condition got worse.
She died of complications of the H1N1 flu.
Yes, we know that the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective. Depending on the flu strains, it might be less effective. Actually the current vaccine is very effective, reducing intensive care admissions in children by over 71%. In other words, children vaccinated against the flu have a 71% lower risk of needing intensive care. I’m not sure if there any other ways to make that clear.
Dorit Rubinstein Reiss wrote an article about her personal decision process to vaccinate her children against the flu. Increasing the odds of having your children be healthy during the flu season by getting the vaccine is so clear to her, and to anyone who reads about these avoidable pediatric deaths.
It’s not my intent to say “pediatric flu deaths” as a scare tactic. But it should be a scare tactic. Why would anyone want to let their children be at risk for death from the flu?
Get the flu vaccine for your kids. And frankly for yourself, if you’re an adult, but let’s start with the kids.