WASHINGTON, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Flu vaccines may help cut a child's risk of flu-related intensive care hospitalization by 74 percent, revealed a study released Thursday by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, is the first to estimate vaccine effectiveness against flu admissions to pediatric intensive care units, the CDC said.
"These study results underscore the importance of an annual flu vaccination, which can keep your child from ending up in the intensive care unit," Alicia Fry, a medical officer in CDC's Influenza Division, said in a statement.
"It is extremely important that all children, especially children at high risk of flu complications, are protected from what can be a life-threatening illness," Fry said.
According to the CDC, children younger than five years and children of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes or developmental delays, are at high risk of serious flu complications.
Fry's team analyzed the medical records of 216 children aged six months through 17 years admitted to 21 pediatric intensive care units in the United States during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 flu seasons.
They found that flu vaccination reduced a child's risk of ending up in the pediatric intensive care unit for flu by an estimated 74 percent.
These findings showed that while vaccination may not always prevent flu illness, it protects against more serious outcomes, the researchers said.
"Because some people who get vaccinated may still get sick, it' s important to remember to use our second line of defense against flu: antiviral drugs to treat flu illness," Fry said. "People at high risk of complications should seek treatment if they get a flu- like illness. Their doctors may prescribe antiviral drugs if it looks like they have influenza."
Currently, the CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone six months and older and especially for children at high risk of serious flu-related complications.