It seems no one
is safe from this year's flu, not even our kids. According to the CDC, there have been 84
pediatric deaths since the deadly virus began wreaking havoc on the U.S. in early
October—22 of which occurred in the same week—but the most disturbing detail is
that many of those children were otherwise healthy.
this isn't the first time healthy kids have died from influenza. In 2013, USA
Today shared a CDC report stating that 830 children had died from
flu-related complications between October 2004 and September 2012. Though many of the children never received a flu vaccine, 43 percent were in good health before the virus reared its ugly head.
Here we are today, five
years later, still scratching our heads and
wondering: Why are so many healthy children dying from the flu?
In a new study,
conducted by Dr. Bria Coates, critical care physician at Ann & Robert H.
Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, researchers hope to answer
this question as well as discover new methods of treatment.
adult and young mice (with no previous exposures to the virus), scientists
examined the immune pathways commonly activated during flu infections. In doing
so, they were able to determine that the immune system of a healthy child—specifically
the “monocytes” cells, which are more resistant—can sometimes overreact to the influenza
virus, leading to greater inflammation, severe lung damage and increased
evidence reverses earlier assumptions that the young are more susceptible to
the flu because their immune systems do not mount a strong enough response to
the virus,” said Coates. “In our study, juvenile mice continued to have an
exaggerated immune response even after the virus was cleared from the body. The
flu was a trigger to the inflammation that their system couldn't turn off,
which proved fatal."
believes the discovery will “provide new targets for developing effective
medicines to treat the flu in children," it hasn’t happened yet. Until
then, she urges parents to continue taking their kids (and themselves) to the
doctor each year to get vaccinated against this deadly disease.
the vaccine is not a perfect match to the circulating influenza strain, as is
the case this year, the vaccine still helps prevent more severe infections if children
get sick with the flu,” adds Coates.
It's true that getting
vaccinated does not exempt you from becoming sick, but it can help protect those
around you, including those most vulnerable to the deadly virus, like babies
and young children.