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Flu-Related Costs in Children Underestimated

Treatment costs as high as $39,792 for patients in the intensive care unit

MONDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The cost of influenza-related hospitalizations in children may be higher than previously estimated, according to a report in the November issue of Pediatrics.

Ron Keren, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, retrospectively measured the direct medical costs of all patients 21 years old and younger with community-acquired and laboratory-confirmed influenza at a children's hospital during four consecutive seasons.

Billing data was available for most of the 727 patients included in the study. Sixty-six percent of children were in a high-risk group and should have had vaccinations according to Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) guidelines. Hospitalization costs ranged from $7,030 per patient cared for on a ward to $39,792 for patients admitted to the intensive care unit; the average was $13,159 per patient but high-risk patients had higher average costs.

"Previous economic evaluations have underestimated the cost of influenza-related hospitalizations in children," the authors conclude. "The presence of certain ACIP-designated chronic medical conditions is associated with higher influenza-related hospitalization costs. Immunizing patients with these conditions has the potential for significant cost savings."

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