CDC Reports On Pediatric Swine Flu Deaths

Juggling three sick children at once can be a handful, but Kristin Davis, 43, handled three children sick with swine flu cases while battling the same virus herself.

Davis, from Phoenix, Ariz., and her family came down with the infection in April, just as public awareness about the disease began to grow.

"My oldest daughter brought it home from her junior high school," Davis said. "It gradually spread through the family... It was scary because this was when we first got news about [swine flu]."

Despite her initial fears about swine flu -- seeing her youngest daughter's school close because of an outbreak of the virus, not knowing very much about the disease -- Davis said the virus only moderately affected her and her children.

"We had all the standard symptoms -- headache, fever, chills," Davis said. "But I've had flus in past winters where I was much sicker... This time, it was just about trying to keep the kids and myself comfortable."

Davis and her family fully recovered from their bout with swine flu, but others have not been so lucky.

A report released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed children, especially those with chronic medical conditions, can have a severe illness or even die from swine flu.

CDC Report Highlights Children With Chronic Conditions

As of August 8, 36 children under age 18 have died from the H1N1 swine flu virus of 477 total deaths, according to the CDC report. Children younger than 5 years or those with chronic or neurological conditions, including asthma, cardiac problems and cerebral palsy were more likely to be severely affected or die from the infection. Of those children who died, 67 percent did have at least one such condition.

"Most of the children who had fatal H1N1 this past spring had an underlying condition," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, in a press conference yesterday. "There were some children who didn't have an underlying condition and became ill, generally infected also by bacteria."

Frieden added that the data emphasized that certain groups of people, for example, children with special needs or conditions, should be "promptly treated if they develop fever in flu season and are at the front of the line for flu vaccination when it becomes available."

Masks and One-Dose Vaccines Part of New Swine Flu Developments

With increased national attention on the H1N1 virus, the Institute of Medicine released recommendations Thursday that all health care workers wear N95 respirators, which are more protective than standard paper masks, to help prevent contracting swine flu.

"The N95 mask screens out small particles," said Dr. John Bartlett, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. "These are better protection than the familiar surgical mask and are advocated for health care workers for two reasons: [Workers] are expected to have risk exposure and they can't get sick because that risks influenza in the patients."

But some question the viability of these masks.

"They are uncomfortable over prolonged use and should only be worn one at a time," said Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Numerous studies indicate the efficacy of the masks decreases with frequent reuse, and they become smelly and intolerable to the user."

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