What Have We Learned About Influenza Deaths in Children and How Can We Do Better?

What Have We Learned About Influenza Deaths in Children and How Can We Do Better?

Feb 12 2018

Bhat et al1 reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that there were 153 influenza-associated deaths among children in the United States during the 2003–2004 influenza season, a somber reminder of the impact of influenza on children. Nearly half of the children that died had no underlying medical conditions and the highest mortality rates were seen in the youngest children. The conclusions of that paper were that “high priority should be given to improvements in influenza-vaccine coverage and improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of influenza to reduce childhood mortality from influenza.”

Since this initial report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have continued to periodically report their findings from the passive “Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality Surveillance System.”24 More than a decade later, 6 additional influenza seasons are characterized in this issue of Pediatrics, with nearly identical findings.5 On average each year in the United States, >100 children die of laboratory-confirmed influenza. Nearly 50% of these fatalities are in children who were previously healthy with no underlying medical conditions, the mortality remains the highest in the youngest children, and those that died are most often unvaccinated.

Source: AAP News