The flu has taken the lives of 105 children in the 2012-13 season, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those numbers are on track with the annual average, the CDC reports.
A full 90 percent of those children had not gotten a flu vaccine, says Michael Jhung, MD, MPH, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s influenza division.
Almost half of the children who died were not at elevated risk for developing serious flu complications, says Jung.
“Forty percent of the kids were completely healthy before getting influenza,” Jhung tells Parenting.com. The remaining 60 percent were considered high risk – kids younger than 5 or kids with chronic conditions such as asthma or other lung disorders, heart disease, or a neurologic or neurodevelopmental disorder.
Children who received this season’s flu vaccine were 64 percent less likely to get the flu and go to the doctor for it than children who did not get the vaccine, Jhung says.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone, especially kids ages 6 months to 18 years and the elderly. Only about 40 percent of kids had received the 2012-2013 flu vaccine by mid-November 2012, according to CDC data. In 2011-2012, an estimated 52 percent of kids got flu shots.
Those numbers need to come up, says Jhung.
“Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza,” he tells Parenting.com — even for healthy kids. “And if you think you or your child may have the flu, get evaluated quickly by a doctor,” Dr. Jhung suggests. The sooner patients start on antiviral meds like Tamiflu, the more effective the treatment.
Did you get your child the flu vaccine this year? Let us know.