In the news: Child Swine Flu

Should all children under 5 be offered the flu jab?

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The death of 3-year-old Lana Ameen from swine flu tugs at the heart of all parents. The otherwise healthy little girl died on Boxing day having first become ill on Christmas Eve.

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Her father Zana, a doctor and mother Gemma, a nurse, recently released a photograph taken of their daughter in intensive care shortly before her death in an attempt to force the Government to offer the flu jab to all children under the age of 5.

At present, only children age 6 months and upwards who are in at-risk groups are offered the seasonal flu jab that includes swine flu. So far the deaths of 5 children have been linked to flu since October.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health says; “This is clearly a very tragic case and our thoughts are with the little girl’s parents who have suffered a terrible loss.

“Current policy on vaccination is based on the latest advice from independent experts, which has been clear that best use of the flu vaccine is to protect children from six months upwards who are in at risk groups. Experts have not recommended the vaccination of children who do not have risk factors. However, this is under constant review.”

Understandably parents are worried and want to make sure they take a responsible approach when it comes to protecting their children.

GP Dr Rob Hicks advises parents not to panic. “I think parents should discuss their concerns with their doctor,” he says. “It’s important to remember that good hand hygiene is an important way of avoiding flu.”

Parents who got their children vaccinated when the swine flu jab was offered last year will still be protected against H1N1 (swine) flu which is circulating this year.

However, those children aged six months and older who are in at risk groups still need to be vaccinated this year with the current seasonal flu vaccination, regardless of whether they had swine flu vaccination last year, to protect them from two other flu virus strains circulating.

The two major strains of flu currently in circulation are influenza B and H1N1 (‘swine’ flu). This year’s flu jab protects against these two strains and H3N2.

H1N1 is the strain most likely to affect younger people.

What to look out for

If your child has a fever or high temperature (over 38C/100.4F) and two or more of the following symptoms;

  • Unusual tiredness
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath or cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aching muscles
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting

If you think you or your child has Swine Flu contact your GP for an appointment.

Also, the flu vaccine is also recommended for pregnant women. The Department of Health says 40 per cent of women in at risk groups have so far been vaccinated.

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