New research investigating the devastating impact of the 2017 flu season by PAEDS-FluCAN has confirmed it was time to take action after thousands of children were hospitalised with the virus last year.
“Influenza is a highly contagious disease that can lead to life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues, and multi-organ failure,” said study co-author Dr Chris Blyth from the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Telethon Kids Institute.
Published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the results from the PAEDS-FLuCAN collaboration led to all Australian states and territories providing a free flu vaccine for children under five years in 2018.
“It is the most common vaccine-preventable cause of hospitalisation and infection-related death, more common than whooping cough and meningococcal disease, yet our research has shown parents are under-estimating the urgency to protect their children against the flu.” “We need to help parents understand that the younger you are, the higher the risk of being hospitalised with the flu. This is because the first exposure to the virus is always the most severe, striking when the immune system is still developing. Aboriginal children and kids with chronic medical conditions are also at the greatest risk,” said Dr Blyth.
“Sadly, we have already seen one young child lose their life from influenza in NSW this year, so I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have your children vaccinated.
“Statistics from last year show that the highest number of cases occurred in late August, so it is not too late to protect your child from a potentially deadly case of the flu.”
The flu vaccine is registered for babies from six months of age onwards, and women are advised to receive the vaccine during pregnancy to provide protection to newborns in their most vulnerable first few months of life.
The paper detailing the study, Influenza epidemiology, vaccine coverage and vaccine effectiveness in children admitted to sentinel Australian hospitals in 2017: Results from the PAEDS-FluCAN Collaboration, was published on 21 August, 2018.
Original source: Telethon Kids Institute
Epidemics of human parechovirus (HPeV) causing disease in young children have occurred every 2 years in Australia since 2013.
Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia reported that since August 2017, PAEDS has been tracking an increased frequency of HPeV cases and between July and December 2017, more than 200 cases of hospitalised HPeV infection were reported in young infants.
Severe disease can manifest as meningoencephalitis, seizures or sepsis-like presentations (including septic shock), or less common presentations including signs of surgical abdomen.
This research shows that testing for HPeV by specific molecular tests is indicated in children younger than 6 months of age with characteristic presentations without another confirmed diagnosis including febrile illnesses with other suggestive features (e.g., rash, seizures), sepsis syndromes (including shock), and suspected meningoencephalitis (which may be detected by magnetic resonance imaging only).
There are no effective antiviral therapies. Treatment is primarily supportive, including management of complications. Some infants with severe HPeV infection may have adverse neurodevelopment. Follow-up by a paediatrician is recommended.
For further information listen to this podcast from the Medical Journal of Australia featuring Dr Philip Britton PAEDS investigator.
Dr Julie Bettinger, an Associate Professor at the Vaccine Evaluation Centre in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of British Columbia presented at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance on 23 April 2018 . Dr Bettinger is an infectious disease epidemiologist and a Research Scholar for the Michael Smith Foundation for Health whose research interests include vaccine safety and vaccine preventable diseases (specifically meningococcal and pneumococcal invasive infections), as well as attitudes and beliefs around immunization uptake and use. She is the data centre director for the Canadian Immunization Monitoring Program, Active (IMPACT), an active surveillance network for vaccine preventable diseases and vaccine adverse events in 12 tertiary care paediatric hospitals across Canada. She is also the lead investigator for CIRN’s Canadian National Vaccine Safety (CANVAS) network, which monitors the safety of influenza vaccines each year. Dr Bettinger provided insights from the Canadian Immunization Monitoring Program Active (IMPACT) and Canadian National Vaccine Safety Network (CANVAS) and how these systems complement existing passive surveillance platforms.
In June 2017 Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS) investigators, nurses and key stakeholders came together in Melbourne to discuss and present their work of 10 years in an anniversary showcase. PAEDS, originally founded through a collaboration between the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) and NCIRS has grown to surveillance at 7 sites across Australia, focusing on vaccine preventable diseases and serious childhood conditions of public health importance: Acute Flaccid Paralysis, intussusception, pertussis, varicella, febrile seizures, encephalitis, influenza and most recently meningococcal disease and group A streptococcal disease. Progress and outcomes from research into these conditions was presented at the showcase. PAEDS warmly welcomed Karina Top from IMPACT as a guest at the 10 year anniversary showcase. Karina shared the challenges and successes of IMPACT from 25 years of surveillance of vaccine preventable diseases and adverse events following immunisation. This was a wonderful opportunity for PAEDS to learn from our Canadian colleagues’ experiences and an honour to have Karina as our guest. View the latest IMPACT newsletter
PAEDS also celebrated Dr Philip Britton’s PhD award for investigation of acute childhood encephalitis, as well as a recently achieved NHMRC partnership grant that will support additional research into understanding why children become unwell with influenza and pertussis. Congratulations to PAEDS on 10 years and many wonderful achievements yet to come.