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Unconventional Hospital Costs For Children Affected By Flu

include children with heart disease, chronic lung disease, asthma, and disorders of hemoglobin such as sickle-cell disease.

Even in the group with the lowest hospital costs, low-risk patients hospitalized exclusively on the ward, costs were higher than previously estimated. For patients in that group, the hospital costs were $6,000 per patient, double the figure reported in prior studies. 'We conclude that most previous studies systematically underestimated true costs of influenza by including children with diseases attributed to influenza, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which probably incur lower costs than actual influenza cases,' said Dr. Keren. 'In contrast, we included only patients who had influenza confirmed by laboratory testing.'

The highest-cost patients in the study were 18-to-21-year-olds and those who had particular high-risk chronic conditions such as cardiac, metabolic, and neurological and neuromuscular diseases. A 2005 study by Dr. Keren's group identified children with neurological and neuromuscular diseases as being at particularly high risk of respiratory failure caused by influenza. That research reinforced last year's decision by the ACIP to add neurological and neuromuscular diseases to the list of chronic conditions that warrant annual flu vaccination.

The current study further buttresses the ACIP's public health recommendations for general pediatric flu immunization. 'During the period we studied, the ACIP recommended that all children aged 6 months to two years receive an influenza vaccine,' said Dr. Keren. 'Since that time, the ACIP has extended the recommended age from age two to age five. Our findings support the ACIP's recommendations by strengthening the economic case for vaccinating children against influenza. This economic case is even more compelling for children with high-risk conditions.'

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