Author: Adrienne Randolph

Influenza, MRSA and why flu vaccination can save children’s lives

Influenza A H1N1 model (scherle.com/Wikimedia)

What caused previously healthy children to die during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic?  Yesterday, the journal Pediatrics published the results of a study I conducted with the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigator’s (PALISI) Network. Results have been widely reported, by the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today and TIME, among many others, provoking a lot of reader commentary, questions and, I fear, some misconceptions.

Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA)(CDC)

Our study collected data on 838 children with 2009 H1N1 infection admitted across 35 pediatric intensive care units (ICUs) in the U.S. Most of these children were severely ill, the majority requiring mechanical ventilator support for respiratory failure, and 9 percent died. Many  (70 percent) had underlying illnesses like asthma or neurologic conditions that increased their risk. But among those who were previously healthy, the chief risk factor for death was co-infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. It increased the risk of mortality 8-fold.

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