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H1N1 More Risky Than Seasonal Flu in Children with Sickle Cell Disease

Infection with the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, causes more life-threatening complications than seasonal flu in children with sickle cell disease, according to research from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. The findings, presented Dec. 7 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, warn parents and caregivers that such children are more likely to need emergency treatment and stays in an intensive-care unit.

The researchers analyzed the records of 118 children with sickle cell disease treated for any kind of flu at Hopkins Children’s between September of 1993 and November of 2009. Of them, 28 were infected with the H1N1 virus, a new strain that emerged for the first time in April of 2009.

While both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus caused similar general symptoms like fever, cough and a runny nose in most of the children, sickle cell patients infected with H1N1 were three times more likely to develop acute chest syndrome, a leading cause of death among these patients, marked by inflammation of the lungs, reduced oxygen capacity and shortness of breath. H1N1-infected children were five times more likely to end up in the intensive-care unit, and were overall more likely to end up on a ventilator and more likely to need a blood transfusion than those with seasonal flu.
 
 

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