Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Flu and Children/Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN)

With flu season officially beginning October 1, families should take steps now to ensure that everyone in the household is as protected as possible, especially children/youth with special health care needs/disabilities. 

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based in part on a survey of families developed in partnership with Family Voices which was distributed through Family-to-Family Health Information and FV State Affiliate Organization networks, reveals these key findings relevant to CYSHCN:
  • Only half of children with neurologic and neurodevelopmental conditions are vaccinated against the flu each year.  
  • Families view their child’s doctor as the main source of information about the flu.
  • Many pediatricians do not recognize intellectual disability as a high-risk condition for the flu.
These findings are significant because in a report published last year, CDC documented that 64% of children with underlying health conditions who died from the flu had a neurologic disorder or neurodevelopmental condition. 

 If children with intellectual disabilities are vulnerable to flu complications, and families depend on their pediatrician for advice, yet doctors are not aware of the risk, are we inadvertently placing children with neurologic disorders at risk?  What can we do?

Families and providers must learn about the complications of the flu for CYSHCN and take steps to prevent avoidable illness.  Families can share information and concerns with their child’s provider, including risks of flu complications for children with neurologic and neurodevelopmental conditions.  Families should follow CDC guidelines that any individual over 6 months of age receive the flu shot; children under the age of 6 months cannot get the flu vaccine and so it is very important that all other family members get vaccinated and take precautions to keep germs from spreading.

Learn more about the flu and children and youth with special health care needs/disabilities at

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