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Influenza Under-Recognized in Young Children

Because few laboratory-confirmed cases are diagnosed, few children are receiving therapy

WEDNESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Influenza infections cause a substantial disease burden in children under age 5, yet few such infections are clinically recognized and treated with specific therapy, according to a study published in the July 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Katherine A. Poehling, M.D., of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues conducted a population-based surveillance of medical visits associated with laboratory-confirmed influenza during the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 influenza seasons.

The researchers found that the average annual rate of influenza-associated hospitalization was 0.9 per 1,000 children. The average annual rates of influenza-associated outpatient visits were 50 clinic visits and six emergency department visits per 1,000 children during the 2002-2003 season and 95 clinic visits and 27 emergency department visits per 1,000 children during the 2003-2004 season. Among children with laboratory-confirmed influenza, only 28 percent of inpatients and 17 percent of outpatients received a diagnosis of influenza by the treating physician.

"As a consequence, few patients were offered specific therapy for infection with the influenza virus," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "This lack of recognition represents a missed opportunity to intervene to reduce both the risk of complications and the spread of the virus to contacts."

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