CDC Announces a Huge Rise in the Estimated Pediatric Death Toll From Swine Flu

Filed under: In The News

The new numbers are startling: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced at a recent press conference that in the past six months, an estimated 540 children have died in the U.S. from the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu. Just days ago, the estimate stood at just 129 children.

How did the numbers change so dramatically?

A revised method of estimating swine flu deaths has "gone beyond lab-confirmed cases" to "provide a bigger picture," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at the press conference. The CDC is "finally able to update the public about how big a toll this pandemic is taking," she said. "We feel comfortable these are appropriate estimates."

In addition to the 540 deaths, the CDC now estimates that 36,000 children have been hospitalized with H1N1 during the first six months of the pandemic. "I am expecting all these numbers, unfortunately, to continue to rise," Schuchat said, as flu season continues throughout the winter.The CDC is urging parents to have their children vaccinated as soon as possible. But some parents remain concerned about the vaccine's safety. Schuchat said the CDC is confident that the vaccine is safe, but she conceded that some pediatricians are wary about offering it.

"Some individual providers are skeptical," she said, but the CDC can't say how many. They have no data on the percentage of doctors around the country opting not to offer the vaccine.

Schuchat also addressed the worry facing many other parents across the country -- vaccine shortages. Availability varies around the country, though most communities are offering the vaccine to kids and those with underlying medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable.

Again, no hard numbers about availability in specific communities, but "more vaccine is being ordered, delivered and used every day," she said. "Access and convenience, ease of getting vaccinated will improve" throughout the country in the coming weeks.

Related: Court Rules West Virginia Mom Must Vaccinate Her Child; More on Health & Safety

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