The burden of childhood influenza in a tertiary paediatric setting

David Lester-Smith*, Yvonne A. Zurynski, Robert Booy, Marino S. Festa, Alison M. Kesson, Elizabeth J. Elliott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Influenza is usually considered a mild winter-time illness but can be associated with a range of serious complications. We undertook a retrospective medical record review to study the impact of admissions of children with laboratory-confirmed influenza to The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, during 2007. One hundred and twenty-two children were identified, representing 530 hospital admission days. There was no clearly documented evidence of influenza vaccination for any patient eligible for vaccination. Fever (97.5%) and cough (69.7%) were the most frequent manifestations. Admissions occurred almost entirely between June and September with a peak in July (n=61, 50%). Two-thirds of the children were aged less than 2 years (median 1.5 years). Most (61.5%) had an underlying chronic medical disorder. Lumbar puncture was performed in 28 (23%) children, mostly infants aged less than 3 months (n=18). Antibiotics were commonly prescribed (67.2%), but use of available influenza-specific antiviral agents was uncommon (13.1%). The nosocomial infection rate was 9.8% and the clinical staff vaccination rate was low (less than 30%). Pneumonia was the most common complication (12.3%). No influenza-related deaths occurred. Influenza in young children poses a significant burden to health care services, tertiary admissions representing the tip-of-the-iceberg. Vaccination rates are inappropriately low in both eligible patients and hospital clinical staff. Early 'point of care' testing, use of influenza-specific antiviral agents, and extension of current vaccination schedules to include all children aged six to 23 months could considerably reduce over-investigation, unnecessary use of antibiotics and the health care impact of influenza.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-215
Number of pages7
JournalCommunicable Diseases Intelligence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • influenza
  • child
  • hospitalisation
  • immunisation


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