Immunization could also be of great help, the experts noted. Children should be vaccinated for the regular, seasonal flu as soon as a vaccine is available, which hopefully will be earlier than the usual October-November time frame.
Trials involving about 2,800 people are also underway for an H1N1 flu vaccine, with officials hoping to have 160 million doses available starting in mid-October. "The vaccine will most likely, at least for children, require two doses separated by about three weeks or more," CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden told reporters last Friday.
The antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza are also available to help people who come down with influenza but, according to a recent study in the BMJ, they may not prevent complications in children with seasonal flu. This raises the question of whether they would help protect kids from the swine flu, either.
The good news is that the swine flu does not seem to be worsening in severity, even as it winds its way through the Southern Hemisphere.
"We haven't seen the evidence that it's the most lethal thing we've seen since 1918 [the Spanish flu pandemic]," said Spigarelli. "We haven't seen it get terribly bad in the Southern Hemisphere. We're not seeing elementary schools being wiped out because of the swine flu."
There's more on the H1N1 flu at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Stuart E. Beeber, M.D., attending pediatrician, Northern Westchester Hospital, Mt. Kisco, N.Y.; Sharon A. Wilkerson, Ph.D., R.N., dean and professor, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing, College Station, Texas; Michael Spigarelli, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, pediatrics and internal medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; Aug. 7, 2009, news telebriefing, with Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention