Experts have urged all children to be vaccinated against swine flu after it was revealed that 70 young people died from the H1N1 in England during a nine-month period between 2009 and 2010.
There were 457 reported swine flu-related deaths in Britain between April last year and March this year.
Although those from Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, and with pre-existing conditions like cerebral palsy, were hardest hit, research indicated that a fifth of those who died were perfectly healthy before they contracted the virus.
A study published in the online edition of the Lancet medical journal concluded that swine flu killed more children than leukaemia, and that such a high death rate for a single infectious disease has not been seen since the 2001 outbreak of meningitis.
Researchers led by Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the former chief medical officer for England, collected data over a nine-month period between 26 June 2009, and 22 March 2010.
The study discovered that overall childhood mortality for swine flu was six deaths per million of the population. Infants aged less than a year old were particularly at risk with 14 per mortalities per million.
The team also discovered that death rates were much higher for Bangladeshi children (47 deaths per million) and Pakistani children (36 deaths per million), when compared to English children (four deaths per million).
More worryingly, perhaps, was that approximately a fifth (21%) of children who died were previously healthy or had only mild pre-existing disorders.
The study also discovered that 64% of the children who succumbed to swine flu had been vaccinated with Tamiflu, but only seven out of the 70 received the drug within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms and just three hours before admission to hospital.
It also indicated that two children who died from swine flu-related illness received the vaccine too late for it to be effective.
Their findings have prompted the research team to call for international data to be pooled to provide a higher number of cases for analysis.
Copyright © Press Association 2010
“Yes, all school children” – Tanya, address withheld