Friday, February 11, 2011

H1N1 Flu Linked to Serious Bacterial Infections in Children

The H1N1 influenza pandemic has led to a sharp increase in the number of children with a serious "secondary" bacterial infection called empyema in children, suggests a study in the October issue of The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. Emphasis has been put on the importance of keeping children up to date with recommended influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, and prompt antiviral drug treatment for patients who develop influenza signs and symptoms.

The researchers analyzed data on children diagnosed with empyema at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City from 2004 to 2009. Empyema is an infection involving the pleural tissues surrounding the lungs, most often occurring as a complication of pneumonia. Empyema is a serious condition, frequently requiring a chest tube or surgery to drain infected fluid from the chest.

All of the children diagnosed with empyema from May to June, 2009, had a "flu-like illness" before hospitalization. Most children with confirmed influenza were infected with H1N1. The most common bacterial causes of empyema were strep bacteria, including pneumococcal bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae).

The study can't prove any cause-and-effect relationship between H1N1 and the increase in children with empyema. However, the reported "temporal association" suggests that doctors should be alert for pneumonia, empyema, and other secondary bacterial infections in children with H1N1. Young children (along with older adults, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions) are a high-risk group for serious complications of H1N1 influenza. Thus, H1N1 may speed along coinfection with the bacteria causing empyema. Though this isn't proved, they are positively and temporally correlated, so doctors should keep a look out.

-Catalina Angel
full article:

-Catalina Ange

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