Flu in Children Often Misdiagnosed
Fewer than 20% of children younger than age five who have the flu and visit their doctors with flu symptoms are correctly diagnosed as having influenza, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, the Tennessean reports.
For the CDC-funded study, researchers in Cincinnati; Nashville; and Rochester, N.Y., performed flu tests on young children who sought treatment for flu symptoms between 2000 and 2004 (Buchanan, Tennessean, 7/6). They found that 17% of children with the flu were diagnosed by their doctors as having the virus.
Twenty-eight percent of children who were hospitalized with flu symptoms were correctly diagnosed with influenza, according to the study. Most children with the flu were diagnosed with conditions such as asthma, pneumonia and general viral illness.
The study finds that 56 children out of every 1,000 visit the doctor because of flu during a mild flu season. During a moderate flu season, there are 122 doctor visits per 1,000 children.
Lead author Katherine Poehling, an assistant professor of pediatrics at of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said, "Many of the children did not have a test performed, and few of the children were sent home with a specific diagnosis of influenza."
The researchers suggested that more widespread use of rapid flu tests, which take less than 30 minutes, would lead to better treatment and a reduction in the spread of the virus. The study's findings were presented previously to a CDC panel that subsequently recommended flu shots for children ages two to five (Nano, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/6).