HEALTH

Less than 45% of children receive flu shot over recent five-year period

BY Michael Johnsen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — According to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center released Thursday, less than 45% of children were vaccinated against the flu during a five-year study period.

“Our research showed that 1-in-6 children under age 5 years who went to an emergency department or clinic with fever and respiratory symptoms during the peak flu seasons had the flu,” stated Katherine Poehling, associate professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study, published in the online edition of the February issue of Pediatrics. “Many of those illnesses could have been prevented by vaccination.”

The researchers found that children less than 6 months of age had the highest hospitalization rates with flu. 

The study, funded by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported population-based data on confirmed flu cases in children younger than 5 years old in three counties in Ohio, New York and Tennessee. More than 8,000 children seen in inpatient, emergency department and clinic settings were included during five flu seasons from 2004 through 2009.

During the study period, the researchers found that the overall flu vaccination coverage changed little, whereas the rates of influenza hospitalization and prevalence of influenza among outpatients varied annually. The proportion of infants less than 6 months old diagnosed with flu increased to 48% as compared to 28% in a previous study conducted by the research team from 2000 to 2004.

However, for children between the ages 6 months and 5 years, the proportion diagnosed with the flu remained similar in both studies. These data suggest that doctors’ awareness of the flu among young infants has increased, but hasn’t among older children.

The study also showed that seasonal flu remains an important cause of hospitalization, emergency department and outpatient visits among children and that the use of tools known to reduce flu rates — vaccination and antiviral medications — were underused, Poehling said.


FOR MORE COVERAGE OF THE FLU EPIDEMIC CLICK HERE

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CDC: Influenza rates may have reached a peak, at least in the Southeast

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The worst of the flu season may be over, at least for those in the South. In a late morning press conference with reporters, Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "We are seeing a decrease in some regions."

However, there is still an uptick in flu incidence heading West, and there is no guarantee that this season has reached its peak, he cautioned. "Only the next week or two will show if we have in fact crossed the [peak]," Frieden said. "As we often say, the only thing that’s predictable about the flu is that it’s unpredictable."

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 4.3%, above the national baseline of 2.2%. 

"Most of the country has seen or is seeing a lot of flu. This may continue for the next few weeks," Frieden said. "It does appear that in parts of the South and Southeast it does look [as though] we’re past the peak." A common progression pattern for the flu is for the incidence to begin an uptick across the South and Southeast and then head West, he added. 

The overall effectiveness of this year’s triumvirate influenza vaccine is 62%, Frieden reported. "The flu vaccine is far from perfect, but it is still by far the best tool that we have to fight the flu," he said. 

Addressing reports on vaccine shortages, Frieden suggested that those who want to be vaccinated should still be able to locate the vaccine. "By this time of year, a lot of doctors’ offices [are out]," Frieden said. "It may be that you have to call a lot of places before you go out, but it should be available for you."

There also have been spot shortages of the pediatric liquid formulation of Tamiflu, the CDC reported. 

According to data posted Friday online, influenza-associated hospitalizations are running at a rate of 13.3 per 100,000 population. The most affected group is over the age of 65 years. Among all hospitalizations, 86.2% were associated with influenza A and 13% with influenza B. Among hospitalizations with influenza A subtype information, 98.7% were attributed to H3, and 1.3% were attributed to 2009 H1N1. 

As of Jan. 11, 24 states and New York City were reporting high levels of influenza-like illness, 16 states were reporting moderate levels, five states were reporting low levels and five states reported minimal levels — including California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine and Montana.

"The bottom line: It’s the flu season," Frieden said.


FOR MORE COVERAGE OF THE FLU EPIDEMIC CLICK HERE

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Ferndale Healthcare launches new site

BY Michael Johnsen

FERNDALE, Mich. — Ferndale Healthcare on Thursday unveiled a redesigned corporate web site www.ferndalehealthcare.com to make it easier for a variety of target audiences to navigate the site.

“Ferndale Healthcare reaches several key audiences, both consumer and professional, with information about dermatology and gastroenterology/colo-rectal conditions and treatments,” stated Jeff Holm, VP Ferndale Healthcare. “We wanted to ensure that when anyone arrives at our site, they can easily navigate to the desired information. … We also want to make life easier for patients looking for rebate cards, which have become increasingly important in the current economy.”

When anyone clicks on the web site the company’s signature “fern leaf” unfurls in an animated burst followed by a three-part screen that directs visitors to the portal for which they’re searching.


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