All children should be vaccinated against swine flu, especially those in high risk groups, doctors have said after figures concerning the pandemic were released.
Swine flu killed 70 children and teenagers in England during a nine-month period between 2009 and 2010, an investigation revealed.
Among the hardest hit were those with pre-existing conditions, especially neurological diseases such as cerebral palsy, and people from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. One in five of the under-18s who died from swine flu were previously healthy.
A total of 457 swine flu-related deaths were reported and confirmed across the UK between April 2009 and March 2010, according to the figures published in the early online edition of The Lancet medical journal.
The swine flu death toll for children was greater than that caused each year by leukaemia, said the researchers. Such a high death rate for a single infectious disease was last seen in 2001 during an outbreak of meningitis.
Researchers led by Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, former chief medical officer for England, collected data over a nine-month period between June 26, 2009, and March 22, 2010.
Sir Liam now chairs the National Patient Safety Agency, a soon-to-be abolished government quango body dedicated to improving patient care.
The study found that overall childhood mortality for H1N1 was six deaths per million of population. The highest death rate of 14 per million was for children aged less than a year old.
Mortality rates were much higher for Bangladeshi children (47 deaths per million population) and Pakistani children (36 deaths per million) than for white English children (four deaths per million). Around a fifth (21%) of children who died were previously healthy or had only mild pre-existing disorders, the study found.
Overall, 64% of children had been vaccinated with Tamiflu. But only seven received the drug within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms and just three before admission to hospital.
Two children who died received the vaccine too late for it to be effective, according to the study. The authors called for international data to be pooled to provide a higher number of cases for analysis.
Copyright Press Association 2010