Web Zap*Germs Archive

October 19, 2005

Winter Flu Season Signalled by Sick Preschoolers

A study conducted at the Children's Hospital of Boston found that when preschool-aged children come down with winter flu, it will spread to the adult population 30 days later -- and cause deaths in elderly patients about five weeks later, reports CNN.

[Note: Visit the US Winter Flu Map to see winter flu progress]

The research indicates that preschool kids are the group least likely to cover their noses when they sneeze, are in close quarters at preschool and day care with other children, and more likely to have contacts with the elderly than older children.

Dr. John Brownstein and Dr. Kenneth Mandl used health-monitoring systems -- developed to detect bioterrorism -- to track Boston-area emergency rooms and a large HMO network during four flu seasons. They found that preschoolers showed up with flu-like illnesses first, sometimes as early as the end of September. Babies and toddlers followed a week or two later, followed by older children and finally adults.

Researchers in Texas are now giving the FluMist nasal flu vaccine to school-age children in Temple and Bolton, to see if it lowers influenza's toll compared with similar communities. In previous experiments, when one-quarter of the schoolchildren were immunized, there was an 8-to-18-percent decline in adults seeking care for respiratory illnesses.


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