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H1N1 Flu and Children

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New report from CDC

“Surveillance for Pediatric Deaths Associated with 2009 Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Infection — United States, April–August 2009,” is available in the September 4 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

This new CDC report providing data on child deaths related to 2009 H1N1 virus infection shows:

  • As of August 8, 2009, 477 deaths with laboratory confirmed 2009 H1N1 influenza in the United States had been reported to CDC, including 36 children younger than 18 years of age. These 36 deaths were reported to CDC from 15 state and local health authorities.

  • Based on studies from previous influenza outbreaks, children aged younger than 5 years or with certain chronic medical conditions are at increased risk for complications from influenza.

  • Sixty-seven percent of children who died with 2009 H1N1 influenza had at least one high-risk medical condition.

  • Notably, among children with high-risk medical conditions, more than 90% had neurodevelopmental conditions, such as developmental delay and cerebral palsy. Fifty-nine percent of the children with neurodevelopmental conditions had more than one neurodevelopmental condition and 41% also had a pulmonary problem.

  • A study of influenza-associated child deaths during the 2003-04 influenza season also found that a considerable proportion of children had a neurodevelopmental condition.

  • Ten of 23 children who were reported to have been tested for bacterial infections had a bacterial co-infection. This included all 6 children who were tested and were 5 years and older and did not have a recognized high-risk medical condition. This finding reinforces other data from seasonal influenza pediatric death surveillance that bacteria and influenza co-infections can cause severe disease in children who may have been previously healthy.

What does this mean for parents and caregivers of children younger than 18?

  • Any child, even previously healthy children and especially those with chronic medical conditions, can have a severe illness or even death from 2009 H1N1 influenza. All children aged 6 months and older should receive 2009 H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. A health care provider should be consulted when children younger than 5 years old or children of any age with high-risk medical condition develop an illness consistent with influenza.

  • Children at highest risk from flu complications include:

    • Children younger than 5 years old, including children younger than 6 months of age who are too young to be vaccinated.
    • Children (of any age) with chronic medical conditions like asthma or other lung problems, diabetes, weakened immune systems, kidney disease, heart problems and neurodevelopmental and neuromuscular disorders.

  • It is important that parents recognize the signs of flu early, so that they can consult with their child’s health care provider. This is especially important for those children known to be at higher risk for influenza-related complications.

  • Symptoms of seasonal flu and novel H1N1 flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. Some people may have respiratory symptoms and not have a fever.

  • If children younger than 5 years old, or children of any age with a high-risk condition, develop fever or chills AND cough or sore throat, talk with the child’s health care provider as soon as possible. They might need to be treated with influenza antiviral medicines.

  • All children older than 6 months and caregivers of children younger than 6 months should receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine when available.

  • Even children who have always been healthy before or had the flu before can get a severe case of flu. Call or take your child to a doctor right away if your child of any age has:

    • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
    • Bluish or gray skin color
    • Not drinking enough fluids
    • Severe or persistent vomiting
    • Not waking up or not interacting
    • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
    • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
    • Has other conditions (like heart or lung disease, diabetes, or asthma) and develops flu-like symptoms, including a fever and/or cough.

For more information about H1N1 and children, follow these links:



Health Care Providers:

Child Care Providers, School and College Officials: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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