Flu, swine flu raise risk factor with young patients

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In a month's time, three children in the Midlands have died of complications related to swine flu.

Twelve-year-old John McCormick from Batesburg-Leesville, 3-year-old Jaden Myers-Pugh and 11-year-old Ashlie Pipkin from Sumter are the tragic faces of the illness.

In each case, the child suffered from other health problems. John's included cerebral palsy, Jaden was from sickle cell anemia, and Ashlie, the coroner says, developed pneumonia and bronchitis after she contracted the flu virus.

Medical experts say H1N1 or the seasonal virus raise the risk factor when the patient is young or dealing with other health issues.

"Number one it can make you more susceptible to catching the flu virus, but it can also make you at a higher risk for getting complications of the flu," said pediatrician Dr. Anna-Kathryn Rye.

Flu can also make even normally healthy children more vulnerable to other infections.

Dr. Rye says it would not be unusual for a child like Ashlie to develop one of two new pulmonary illnesses.

"And those two complications are something called ARDS which is basically when your lungs fill up with fluid. And the second one is bacterial pneumonia," said Dr. Rye.

Doctors say most otherwise healthy young people who get H1N1 will recover in 3-5 days, but they say parents of chronically ill children should make sure they receive flu shots.

"The children who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma, HIV, cancer, things like that need to actually get the injectable vaccine," said Dr. Rye. "Because that way their immunity is primed against the vaccine, but it won't give them the flu itself."

Dr. Rye says that injectable vaccine is different from the product called flu mist and thus more suitable for kids with chronic illnesses because it contains the killed virus, bot the attenuated live variety found in flu mist.

Rye says there's one other thing parents should know: even if kids seem to have had the flu and have recovered, she says they should still get vaccinated.

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