(HealthDay News) – For children, influenza can be fatal even for those without high-risk medical conditions, according to a study published online Oct. 28 in Pediatrics.

Karen K. Wong, MD, MPH, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues utilized data from standard case report forms submitted to the CDC to describe the epidemiology of influenza-associated pediatric deaths (aged younger than 18 years) from the 2004–2005 to 2011–2012 influenza seasons. Characteristics of children with and without high-risk medical conditions were compared.

The researchers found that between October 2004 and September 2012 there were 830 pediatric influenza-associated deaths reported (median age, 7 years). More than one-third of deaths (35%) occurred before hospital admission. 794 children had a known medical history, including no high-risk medical conditions (43%), neurologic disorders (33%), and genetic or chromosomal disorders (12%). Compared to those with high-risk medical conditions, children without high-risk medical conditions were more likely to die before hospital admission and within three days of symptom onset (relative risks, 1.9 and 1.6, respectively).

“These findings highlight the importance of recommendations that all children should receive annual influenza vaccination to prevent influenza, and children who are hospitalized, who have severe illness, or who are at high risk of complications (age <2 years or with medical conditions) should receive antiviral treatment as early as possible,” the authors write.

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