September 17, 2012

Flu Prevention for Children: Twitter Chat September 18, Coordinated by the CDC with Family Voices

Flu Prevention for Children: Twitter Chat September 18, Coordinated by the CDC with Family Voices

September 17, 2012, Albuquerque, New Mexico: National Family Voices (@FamilyVoices) will partner with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (@CDCFlu), the American Academy of Pediatrics (@AmerAcadPeds and @DrBobBlock), Families Fighting Flu (@FamFightFlu), and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disability (@MetteP1) for a Twitter chat Tuesday, September 18, 1 PM EST on helping caregivers prevent flu for children. The chat will focus on the importance of flu prevention for children with neurologic disorders and other special health care needs that pre-dispose them to influenza-related complications. Join or follow this conversation by logging into and going to #CDCFluChat. Note that you will need to have or set up a free Twitter account to follow this chat.

The Twitter chat will address questions such as:

  • When in the season does flu typically strike, and what groups of children are most vulnerable to the flu?
  • What are the flu risks for different groups of children, and particularly those with neurologic disorders?
  • How can parents find out about the local vaccine options in their area, and which ones are free?
  • Are there any risks associated with getting the vaccine?
  • What are some other things parents can do to help protect their children from getting the flu, and to make the incidence of it less severe if they do get it?
  • Is there medicine that is valuable to help prevent the flu once a child has been exposed?
  • What are the warning signs of flu, and does it require medical treatment?
  • Is there a help line number at CDC to call for questions? 

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently reported in the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal, Pediatrics,, shows that a disproportionately high number of children with neurologic disorders died from influenza-related complications during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. This finding underscores the importance of protecting children with this type of condition from flu. CDC reports that the flu vaccine is the best prevention method available and notes that antiviral drugs, which can treat influenza illness, are only a second line of defense against flu. The organization recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get an annual influenza vaccination, including people who are at high risk of developing serious complications. 

Of the 336 children in the CDC study who were reported to have died from 2009 H1N1 flu-associated causes, and for whom information was available about underlying medical conditions, 227 (or about 68 percent) had one or more underlying health conditions. 146 children, (64 percent of the children with underlying health conditions who died from flu-associated causes), had a neurologic disorder such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, or epilepsy. Of the children with neurologic disorders for whom information on vaccination status was available, only 21 (23 percent) had received the seasonal influenza vaccine and only 2 (3 percent) were fully vaccinated for 2009 H1N1.

"We've known for some time that certain neurologic conditions can put children at high risk for serious complications from influenza," said Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of the surveillance and outbreak response team in CDC's Influenza Division. "However, the high percentage of pediatric deaths associated with neurologic disorders that occurred during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was a somber reminder of the harm that flu can cause to children with neurologic and neurodevelopmental disorders." 

"Flu is particularly dangerous for people who may have trouble with muscle function, lung function or difficulty coughing, swallowing, or clearing fluids from their airways," said study coauthor and pediatrician Dr. Georgina Peacock, of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "These problems are sometimes experienced by children with neurologic disorders."

The most commonly reported complications for children with neurologic disorders in this study were influenza-associated pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Seventy-five percent of children with a neurologic condition who died from 2009 H1N1 influenza-related infection also had an additional high risk condition that increased their risk for influenza complications, such as a pulmonary disorder, metabolic disorder, heart disease, or a chromosomal abnormality.

"Partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics, influenza advocacy groups, and family led-organizations CAN help prevent influenza in children at highest risk," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. 

The partnering organizations are working to coordinate communication activities with their constituents, which include parents and caregivers, primary care clinicians, developmental pediatricians and neurologists in the hope of increasing awareness about flu prevention and treatment in children with neurologic disorders. 

Family Voices is a national family-led organization supporting families and their children with special health care needs. Executive Director Lynn Pedraza, a parent of children with special health care needs, says, "We're pleased to be part of this collaborative effort to help prevent flu for children, and minimize the possibility of flu-associated death for some. It's important to Family Voices to partner and collaborate whenever possible to increase the reach and effectiveness of the good work so many organizations are doing to support the health and wellness of children and families."

For more information about flu prevention for children, join the #CDCFluChat at on Tuesday, September 18 at 1 PM ET. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you miss the actual Twitter chat, the information will be available by searching the term #CDCFluChat at for several days after the Twitter conversation takes place.

For more information about National Family Voices please visit or contact Melanie Rubin, Director of Communications, 505-872-4777,