NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – The number of pediatric flu deaths is estimated to be nearly 200 per season – about a quarter are in kids under five. Also at high risk are children with underlying brain conditions that can trigger neuropsychiatric events, some as serious as suicide. A new study seeks answers on whether the flu or treatment builds suicidal thoughts. Behavioral changes.
The flu commonly causes respiratory issues, but in some children, it can trigger neuropsychiatric issues.
James W. Antoon, MD, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explains, “These neuropsychiatric events included things like brain inflammation, seizures, and acute behavioral changes, like suicide attempts.”
In addition to those side effects are anxiety and depressive episodes. Of the 150,000 children with flu, 1,500 of them suffered a neuropsychiatric event from the flu. However, there were startling differences in those predisposed to brain disorders.
“The rate of neuropsychiatric events was about 10 times higher in those with underlying psychiatric conditions and 100 times higher in those with underlying neurologic conditions,” Dr. Antoon emphasizes.
But what triggers these neuropsychiatric events? Is it flu or TamiFlu?
“There’s a number of potential ways it can happen. It’s very well-known that flu can cause inflammation in the brain, and cause something called encephalitis or encephalopathy, that causes acute behavior changes,” Dr. Antoon adds. “The anti-viral Tamiflu, or oseltamivir, has a black box warning for neuropsychiatric events.”
Dr. Antoon advises parents to discuss these risks with pediatricians to decide about flu treatment or not.
Earlier studies reported to the CDC have shown that annually, about 160,000 kids are diagnosed with flu, and the risks are higher among adolescents for flu complications. that risk soars to 100 times higher in kids predisposed to psychiatric events.
Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.
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TOPIC: FLU, TAMIFLU & BEHAVIORAL CHANGES IN KIDS?
REPORT: MB #5288
BACKGROUND: The highest number of child flu deaths since before the pandemic have been reported in 2023. Approximately 80 percent of deaths reported in children from the virus occurred in children not vaccinated. Severe conditions and complications from the flu are more common in children under the age of two years old and children with chronic health conditions like asthma and diabetes. In some cases, the flu can cause encephalopathy, which is a generalized brain dysfunction. Children with encephalopathy may exhibit altered consciousness, changes in behavior, disorientation, and impaired cognitive function. This condition can be serious and requires prompt medical attention.
DIAGNOSING: Common symptoms of the flu in children include fevers, coughing, muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, nausea, tiredness, and runny noses. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur in children is much more common than in adults. A high fever is a hallmark symptom of the flu. Elevated body temperature can lead to various neuropsychological symptoms, including irritability, confusion, delirium, and even seizures, particularly in young children. Diagnosing the flu in children, particularly when neuropsychological events are suspected, can be challenging due to the overlap of symptoms with other viral infections and the potential for neurological complications. A physical examination typically begins with measuring the child’s body temperature. If neuropsychological events are suspected, a healthcare provider will perform a thorough neurological examination to assess mental status, coordination, reflexes, and muscle strength.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Previous studies have been mixed on whether or not the use of Tamiflu causes neuropsychological events in children. A study out of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital found that flu infections alone can be associated with neuropsychiatric events in children and should remain a topic of conversation when counseling families with sick children. Their study was funded by grants and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and found that the neurologic events children treated with Tamiflu experienced included seizures, encephalitis, altered mental states, movement disorders, vision changes, dizziness, and headaches. Psychiatric events included homicidal behaviors, suicidal behaviors, self-harm, mood disorders, and psychosis.
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