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Officials: All children at risk for H1N1

October 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's just barely mid-October and already the CDC is reporting 76 children died from the H1N1 virus. This is about the same number of kids who die during the entire flu season that ends in May. We know children with underlying health conditions are usually at risk, but this year health officials say all children are at risk.

In Texas, Kristen Gibson's healthy 5-year-old daughter Catherine came down with the H1N1 flu and never recovered.

"It never occurred to me that I would leave the hospital without my daughter," said Kristen.

In suburban Chicago, H1N1 virus claimed the life of a 14-year-old student at Naperville North High School.

"It just breaks my heart," said parent Carol Dunne. "And I'm so sorry for her family. I can't imagine."

In a new report to be published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, doctors are painting a frightening picture of how previously healthy young people are being fatally stricken with the H1N1 virus.

They write critical illness "occurred rapidly after hospital admission" and was associated with severely low levels of oxygen in the blood, multi-system organ failure, a need for prolonged mechanical ventilation, and frequent use of rescue therapies.

"Respiratory distress means we need to be aware and that we are doing extra treatment for that," said ER physician Serineh Voskanian Melidonian.

Dr. Melidonian says she is seeing an increased volume of sick kids. And those with flu like symptoms and respiratory distress need to get immediate medical attention.

"The main things to look out for are signs that they are not oxygenating well, like they are choking," said Dr. Melidonian.

The best strategy is prevention which includes frequent hand washing, not touching your face and staying home if you're sick.

This week more swine flu vaccine will arrive in the Southland. Federal health officials are urging parents to get their children vaccinated because the risks from not getting the shot are greater than any potential risks associated with taking the vaccine.


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