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ข่าวประจำวัน : Experts check into rash of child flu deaths

Thu Feb 1, 2007 8:22pm ET18

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nine children have died of flu this season in Alabama, an unusually high number that has some experts worried, a pediatrician said on Thursday.

Dr. Richard Whitley of the University of Alabama at Birmingham said he had sent samples from the children to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis.

"Nine children and we are a state of 4 million people," he said.

They were all affected with the regular seasonal flu, Whitley said in an interview, but were unusually ill with it.

"We have tried extravagant things (to save them)."

"These kids are presenting with an ARDS-like syndrome," he said. Acute respiratory distress syndrome usually only occurs with severe infections, and is not normally a symptom of influenza.

Normal seasonal influenza does kill children every year, even previously healthy children. Public health officials are watching flu more closely than before because of fears the H5N1 bird flu virus, a strain found primarily in birds but that has killed 164 people since 2003, might mutate into a fast-spreading and lethal pandemic form.

"Unfortunately, it is not unusual for there to be pediatric deaths in any flu season," CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding told reporters.

It takes years sometimes to get good estimates, but 153 children died in the 2003-2004 flu season, according to CDC figures. This year so far the CDC had reported eight deaths among children, but its statistics are usually several weeks old.

Whitley said his hospital started filling up with cases, mostly children, in December. The U.S. flu season normally runs from October to March.

"Our hospital has been at 115 percent occupancy," Whitley told reporters.

"We are not seeing influenza in our adult populations."

Most of the 36,000 Americans who die of flu and flu-related pneumonia in an average year are elderly.

Whitley said the annual flu wave was now starting to peter out in Alabama, but increased activity had been reported east, in South Carolina, and north in Illinois. The CDC says flu activity in the United States has not reached epidemic levels.

"We do know that the majority of virus circulating in this flu season is a strain that is an excellent match to the vaccine," Gerberding said. Every year, the flu vaccine is reformulated with three strains of flu that match the most common types in circulation.

The CDC now recommends that most people in the United States get flu vaccines every year, including young children, people over the age of 50, health care workers and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes.

ข่าวประจำวัน : 2 February 2007
แหล่งที่มา Reuters
อ่าน 266





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