Ready ... set ... SNEEZE!

Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Boston discovered that adults start falling ill about thirty days after 3- and 4-year-olds begin showing up in doctors' offices and emergency rooms with influenza.

One of the researchers, epidemiologist John Brownstein, told the Associated Press:

"What we think is most likely is that 3- and 4-year-olds are early spreaders of influenza because of the preschool setting."

Influenza is a disease of the respiratory tract, caused by a virus. (It is NOT a gastrointestinal problem.) It spreads easily from person to person, through tiny droplets that come from infected people's noses and mouths when they cough or sneeze. You can inhale the droplets directly, or pick up the virus by touching things that have been contaminated by them.

Influenza Cough: Here you can see how influenza germs spread when someone sneezes or coughs. Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Kids in preschool and daycare are especially good spreaders of the virus because they spend their days in small spaces full of little people who haven't yet learned to cover their coughs or sneezes, have lousy hygiene, and are apt to (yes, it's true) pick their noses.

More than 10,000 Americans die of influenza each year. Right now, healthy children older than two aren't on the government's list of flu shot targets, but this new research suggests that maybe they should be. Keeping the infection rate of little kids down might help to protect adults, too.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

Need a flu shot?

Until October 24th, the CDC asks that only high-risk patients get flu shots. (That's to make sure that the vaccine is available for the people who need it most.)

High-risk groups include:

  • people 65 or older;
  • people living in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes;
  • children between 6 and 23 months old;
  • pregnant women;
  • health-care workers who interact directly with patients;
  • caregivers for and household members of infants younger than 6 months;
  • and people between 2 and 64 with preexisting health conditions.

After October 24th, anyone who wants a flu shot can have one.

posted on Fri, 10/07/2005 - 12:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Oh my gosh. this was so interesting and sort of nasty. thanks for the resource!

posted on Mon, 05/15/2006 - 8:52am

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