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BRIEFLY

Flu diagnosis in kids eludes doctors

July 10, 2006|From Times wire reports

Doctors often fail to diagnose the flu in young children, according to a new study used to encourage the vaccination of youngsters.

Researchers found that 5.6% of children younger than 5 living around Nashville, Cincinnati and Rochester, N.Y., had the flu during the winter of 2002-03. The following year, the number more than doubled to 12.2%, according to the study published in the July 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Doctors made the correct flu diagnosis less than 28% of the time, the study found.

"Few influenza infections were recognized clinically," the researchers wrote, adding: "Much of this influenza burden may be prevented through vaccination." Preventing the virus would reduce the "substantial cost" of treating it, the researchers concluded.

Katherine Poehling, a pediatrician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville who led the study, said many physicians wrongly diagnose children with a viral illness other than the flu. Other viruses, such as the respiratory syncytial virus, are common during flu seasons and can appear similar.

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