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Flu Killed 115 Children Last Season: CDC
Date:9/15/2011

THURSDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Children typically don't die from the flu or its complications. Still, U.S. health officials reported Thursday that 115 kids younger than 18 died from flu-related causes during the one-year period that ended Aug. 31.

And many of the deaths could have been prevented if the children had been vaccinated against the flu, said the officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a report in the Sept. 16 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, agency officials said the findings highlight the importance of both annual vaccinations and rapid antiviral treatment.

"It's vital that children get vaccinated," Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of the CDC's Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team, said in an agency news release.

"We know the flu vaccine isn't 100 percent effective, especially not in children with high-risk medical conditions. That's why it's essential that these two medical tools be fully utilized," Finelli added. "Vaccinate first; then use influenza antiviral drugs as a second line of defense against the flu. Right now we aren't fully using the medical tools at our disposal to prevent flu illnesses and deaths in children."

CDC officials pointed out that only 23 percent of the 74 children older than 6 months with a known vaccination history had gotten a flu shot last season, even though it's been recommended since 2008 that all children 6 months of age and older get vaccinated.

The report noted that many people erroneously think that healthy kids can withstand a case of flu. But roughly half of the kids who died during the 2010-2011 flu season had healthy medical histories.

CDC officials said being young is a risk factor for flu-related complications. Forty-six percent of the children who died were younger than 5 years of age and 29 percent were younger than 2 years.

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