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Global toll of childhood flu

Friday November 11th, 2011

About 90 million children globally under the age of five contract seasonal flu every year, researchers have estimated for the first time.

A study by Dr Harish Nair, Centre for Population Health Sciences, Medical School, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, and colleagues worldwide, estimates that of the 90 million, one million have to receive hospital treatment.

And of those youngsters taken ill with flu, between 28,000 and 111,500 die from flu-related pneumonia, says Dr Nair, whose findings are published Online First by the Lancet. About 99 per cent of those occur in developing countries.

The figures were released ahead of World Pneumonia Day, which takes place tomorrow Saturday, November 12, 2011.

Although it is believed that global pneumonia is associated with Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the problem of paediatric pneumonia remains a mystery.

The authors formed an international Influenza Study Group to supplement their systematic literature review, which contained published data from high-income and developing countries, with available unpublished data, identifying 43 suitable studies.

Examining the data, they estimated that there were 90 million new cases of influenza in children under five years and 20 million cases of influenza-associated pneumonia.

Of those, there were about one million cases of influenza-associated severe pneumonia, estimate the authors.

“Influenza is the second most common pathogen identified in children with acute lower respiratory infection [pneumonia] and contributes substantially to the burden of hospitalisation and mortality in young children,” they write.

“Our estimates should inform public health policy and vaccine strategy, especially in developing countries. Our report should also help inform donor agencies in assigning funding priorities for novel vaccine development and implementation or other influenza prevention strategies.”

In a linked Comment, Dr Maria Zambon, Health Protection Agency, London, UK, says: "Importantly, Nair and colleagues' study concludes that most childhood mortality occurs outside of hospital settings, with roughly 15-fold differences of case fatality ratio between developing and developed countries.”

The Lancet November 11 2011

Tags: Child Health | Flu & Viruses | Respiratory | UK News

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