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Swine Flu Poses Risk to Kids With Neurological Conditions
Date:9/3/2009

But U.S. officials say death rate seems no higher than with seasonal flu

THURSDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 500 Americans have died of complications from the H1N1 swine flu since the virus first surfaced last spring, including at least 36 children younger than 18, a new government report shows.

And 67 percent of those children who died had at least one chronic high-risk "neurodevelopmental condition," such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy or developmental delay, U.S. health officials said during a news conference Thursday.

Bacterial infections -- such as bacterial pneumonia -- were another contributing factor to an increased risk of death in children, including most children older than 5 who didn't have a preexisting high-risk medical condition. This suggests that bacteria, in tandem with the H1N1 virus, can cause severe disease in children who may be otherwise healthy, the officials said.

But the officials, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stressed that the pediatric death rates and complications from swine flu are very similar to the rates of death and complications seen in children sickened by the seasonal flu each year.

"Each year, there are 50 to 100 deaths from influenza among children in this country," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during the afternoon news conference. "These [swine flu] findings are not unexpected. It's what we see with seasonal flu. But only time will tell what will happen in the fall and winter."

The officials noted one difference in death rates of children stricken with seasonal flu vs. the newly identified swine flu. In past seasonal flu outbreaks, the children who died tended to be 5 or younger. But since the H1N1 virus first surfaced in mid-April, the death rates have been higher for children older than 5, according to a report in the Sept. 4 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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