Dutch children may be given swine flu jabs

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The health ministry is looking into the possibility of vaccinating young people and children.

The Netherlands – After a healthy 14-year-old girl became the latest victim to die from swine flu in the Netherlands, the health ministry is looking into the possibility of extending the vaccination programme to include young people and children.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Ab Klink has confirmed the Health Council and Centre for Infection Control is looking into the possibility of vaccinating young people and children.

An independent recommendation is expected in mid-November.

At the beginning of the new influenza A(H1N1) outbreak the Dutch government ordered 34 million vaccines – two jabs per person in the country.

When the virus did not appear to be deadly, the government decided to vaccinate high-risk groups. These include the over-60s who would normally receive winter flu jabs, followed by pregnant women and medical staff.

Swine flu on the rise among young people
Last week, the Netherlands declared a mild epidemic  as numbers of people being admitted to hospital with H1N1 has doubled. Most of the patients are younger than 65 years old. In the past week 10 people a day have been admitted to hospital with the disease.

The number of babies and toddlers who are infected with the virus is also on the rise as compared to previous weeks when hospital admissions among 15 to 24 year-olds were highest. However the group most in need of intensive care were the 5 to 14-year-olds.

This suggests children and young people are most vulnerable to the disease, but this group has not been included in the upcoming government inoculation programme due to begin at the end October.

Unusual for healthy person to die from virus
Out of the six fatalities in the Netherlands, the 14-year-old teenager is the first patient who had no underlying health problems who died after contracting swine flu.

In an interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide's Dutch service, Professor Roel Couthino from the Dutch Institute of  Public Health said it was unusual for a healthy person to die from flu.

"In this case the young girl became ill very quickly. We don't know exactly why she died , it could have been a lung infection or an overreaction by her body to the illness."

Professor Coutinho said it was impossible to predict how someone would react to a flu infection. Healthy young people have also died in other countries after being infected with A(H1N1).

Couthino stressed this has less to do with the virus itself but more to do with the reactions people have to it.

The institute for public health will conduct further inquiries into the girl's death. 

A second fatality was also reported last week, that of a 40-year-old man with underlying health problems.

Radio Netherlands / Expatica

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