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Children more likely to catch swine flu - N Engl J Med

Author: Tamer M. Fouad, M.D. | Submitted: January 02, 2010. Updated: October 17, 2017.

Tamer M. Fouad, M.D.'s avatar

Young people aged under 18 years are more likely than adults to catch swine flu from an infected person in their household, according to a new study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, the research also shows that young people are no more likely than adults to infect others with the pandemic H1N1 virus.1

Researchers at the Medical Research Council (UK) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data collected from 216 people believed to be infected with the swine flu virus (H1N1), and 600 people living in their households, to determine how age, symptoms, number of people in a household and length of time after symptoms are first reported affect how easily people transmit the virus to one another.

The data reveal that household contacts aged 18 or under were twice as likely to be infected by a patient in their household, compared to adults aged 19 to 50. Household members aged over 50 were the least susceptible to infection.

However, today’s study shows that the age of a patient did not appear to affect their risk of passing on infection, despite suspicions that children may be more infectious than adults.

Today’s research also suggests that most transmissions occur shortly before or after the first patient shows symptoms of infection. It shows that the risk of someone catching the virus is higher in households of only two people compared to households of six people: 28% of household contacts developed acute respiratory illness in households of two people, compared to 9% in households of six people. The authors of the study believe this is because in larger households there is less one-on-one contact between family members.

The study also shows that no particular symptoms, including cough, runny nose, fever, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhoea, were more associated with the virus being transmitted between people in the same household than the others. However, for some of the symptoms, there was little power to detect an effect since, for example, almost all patients (92%) had a cough.

Tamer M. Fouad, M.D.. Children more likely to catch swine flu - N Engl J Med. Doctors Lounge Website. Available at: Accessed December 04 2022.


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