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Five-fold increase in flu+MRSA deaths in kids

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I have a story up this evening at CIDRAP News about a new paper in the journal Pediatrics that analyzes the incidence of child deaths from pneumonia caused by the combination of MRSA and flu, a sad and scary development that we’ve talked about here, here and here.

(NB: CIDRAP News is the original-reporting and news-aggregation arm of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, an infectious disease research center headed by noted epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, PhD. I have a part-time appointment there. CIDRAP News is the best-read infectious-disease website you have never heard of, with about 10 million visitors a year, and is a notable resource for news on seasonal and pandemic flu, select agents and bioterrorism, and foodborne disease.)

It is bad netiquette and not fair use to reproduce another publication’s entire story here, even if I wrote it. Here though are the highlights:

  • 166 children died of influenza in the past three seasons (2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07) according to 39 states and 2 local health departments (86 this year in preliminary reporting)
  • The proportion of deaths from bacterial co-infection rose each year, from 6% to 15% to 34%, a five-fold increase
  • Almost all of the bacterial co-infections were staph; 64% of them MRSA
  • The rapid rise in MRSA colonization (from 0.8% of the population in 2001 to 1.5% in 2004 — that’s more than 4 million people) may be playing a role
  • And, some of these deaths could have been avoided if children had had flu shots — but overall, only 21% of under-2s and 16% of 2- to 5-year-olds get the two shots they need to be fully protected against flu.

Please click through to CIDRAP for more.

The cite is: Finelli L, Fiore A, Dhara R, et al. Influenza-associated pediatric mortality in the United States: increase of Staphylococcus aureus coinfection. Pediatrics 2008;122:805-11.

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