Flu in Kids Often Missed by Doctors

FLU IN KIDS If you take your child to the emergency room with flulike symptoms, there's a good chance his or her doctor will not correctly diagnose influenza. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that treating doctors missed 72 percent to 83 percent of flu cases in children under the age of 5. Although most statistics on flu infections in young children come from studies of hospitals, this new research finds kids are between 10 times to 250 times more likely to show up at the doctor's office or emergency room with flu than end up in the hospital with the flu or complications like pneumonia.

POLLUTION & KIDS Inhaled pollution may be harming children's lungs, researchers find in a study of 64 healthy children in the United Kingdom. For the study, which was published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors tested cells from the lungs of the children and found traces of black carbon, which is linked to pollution from fossil fuels. The more carbon that was found in the kids' lungs, the poorer their lung function was. The researchers say that it is not clear what effect the black carbon may have on long-term lung health in the children, but that their data strengthen the evidence that pollution is a direct cause of poor lung function.

NO VACCINE-AUTISM LINK IN CANADA Echoing studies from many other countries, new research from Montreal finds that autism rates in children were not related to the mercury preservative thimerosal, which used to be found in childhood vaccines. Scientists from McGill University find that rates of autism increased in Montreal during the late 1980s and into the 1990s, and that they continued to increase after 1996, when thimerosal was removed from vaccines. Published in Pediatrics, the new research also confirms a finding seen in other large studies on vaccines: Children who were immunized with thimerosal-containing vaccines actually had a lower rate of autism and other childhood disorders. Researchers believe that the reason for the increasing rates of autism is that parents, doctors and school systems are more aware of the disorder and thus more likely to recognize and diagnose it.

BIRD FLU HIT NIGERIA MULTIPLE TIMES Multiple, distinct strains of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus infected poultry in Nigeria, researchers from Luxembourg say, which means that bird flu probably entered the country by several different routes. Scientists don't yet know exactly how the virus arrived, but they believe birds from Russia and Northern Europe were to blame. These birds may have migrated, been shipped in commercially, or some combination of the two. Writing this week in the journal Nature, authors believe that these findings also highlight how difficult it is to keep the country's poultry protected, given that it appears vulnerable from multiple sources.

STAT is a brief look at the latest medical research and is compiled by Joanna Schaffhausen, who holds a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience. She works in the ABC News Medical Unit, evaluating medical studies, abstracts and news releases.