Influenza in Children

On November 21st, Dr. Paul Schnee, Medical Officer of Health for Palliser Health Region (PHR) sent a memo to Palliser Physicians and Staff on the subject of influenza. In the memo he indicates that five children have died in UK from influenza due to A/Fujian virus.

Dr. Schnee says, “As seen during previous influenza seasons, young children are the first to be affected. That is because most young children have little or no history of exposure to influenza viruses and have limited protective immunity.”

An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) says, “Each year, about 9-20 percent of healthy children aged less than five years will require health care for an influenza-related illness.”

So how can we protect our children from the scourge of influenza?

Current Canadian guidelines encourage vaccinating healthy young children but do not designate them as being at high risk of infection. In US, the current recommendation is that all healthy children aged six to 23 months should be given influenza immunization. This change came about recently. Can Canada do the same thing?

Children with influenza present with fever, with acute respiratory tract illness and with middle ear infection. Children under two years of age are very prone to complications like pneumonia and croup.

“The key to controlling influenza infection is prevention,” says the CMAJ article.

So how can we do that?

On November 18th, Dr. Schnee had sent a memo to Physicians and Staff of PHR titled, “Influenza information provided to the media”.

The memo contains a list of dos and don’ts which the general public should be aware of. It is well written. It is simple and easy to understand. I think it should be read by everybody.

If the PHR can afford it then a laminated copy of this memo (November 18th) should be delivered to every home in the region. It will be a good investment in preventive health. And the public will know how to make the best use of health care resources during the flu season.

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