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Children Under Five More Likely To Be Admitted To Hospital With Flu
The group with the highest rate of flu in Australia is children under five. In fact, recent demographic studies have shown that children in this group are more frequently hospitalized for the flu than they are for any other disease which can be prevented by vaccine. Almost 1500 children in this age group are admitted each year to the hospital with the flu. Last year, six children died as result of the flu.
With flu season set to begin soon in Australia, experts are encouraging parents to have their children immunized. Professor Robert Booy is director of research at the National Centre for Immunization Research and Surveillance, Children's Hospital Westmead. He urges parents to not only vaccinate their children, but to be familiar with flu symptoms, which in young children include a high fever and being irritable.
“Some young children with influenza can look so unwell when they arrive at hospital that a spinal tap – otherwise known as a lumbar puncture – is performed to rule out meningitis,” Booy said. This is serious and often painful procedure. “Much of this might be prevented if children were vaccinated against influenza each year. Children are one of the main spreaders of influenza, particularly within households. Therefore vaccination is not only important to protect the health of the child, but also because of the key role they play in transmission, particularly if they are in contact with at-risk people or older adults.”
To further study the effects of children and the flu, researchers are conducting a trial on infants in 40 childcare centers located in Sydney. One of the goals of this research will be to determine if having infants and young children immunized against the flu makes a difference in how many of their parents get the flu. "So the question we've asked is: can we vaccinate the children and observe a benefit not only in them but a secondary benefit in their parents," Booy said.
This new trial is expected to show even greater benefit from the humble flu vaccine.
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