Teenagers at risk for H1N1

Published 11:55 pm Friday, October 16, 2009

A story by the Associated Press Friday reported that another 11 children died this past week from symptoms tied to the H1N1 flu, more commonly known as the swine flu.

And, the Centers for Disease Control now reports that half of the deaths in children related to the H1N1 virus are now among teenagers, a startling statistic since preschoolers were once believed to be the most vulnerable to the illness.

This news coincides with the policy adopted by 18 Hampton Roads hospitals — including the facilities here in Suffolk — to ban visitors 18 and under.

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With the news of these fatalities, in combination with other tragic deaths, including one in Isle of Wight County earlier this year, the move by the hospitals is a smart one that should be applauded.

In no way does this policy affect the emergency or planned treatment for children 18 and under, simply the access they have as visitors. And, let us not forget, this policy is not to punish them, but rather protect them.

In the story, CDC officials said that throughout the country, deaths from pneumonia and flu-like illnesses have surpassed what officials consider epidemic levels. An estimated 6 percent of all doctors’ visits are from flu-like symptoms, a level not normally reached until much later in the fall.

After this report, the need is even clearer for everyone to make plans to receive their annual flu shot and, when available, the H1N1 vaccine. In combination, these two vaccinations will help stave off what many medical experts are predicting to be a horrific flu season.

We have already seen deaths and many of us have either battled the flu this year or know someone who has. Why continue to play the game of chance with these illnesses when the flu vaccine is so readily available and when the upcoming H1N1 flu shot will be available?