Background: In April 2009, a novel influenza A H1N1 (nH1N1) virus emerged and spread rapidly worldwide. News of the pandemic led to a heightened awareness of the consequences of influenza and generally resulted in enhanced infection control practices and strengthened vaccination efforts for both healthcare workers and the general population. Seasonal influenza (SI) illness in the pediatric population has been previously shown to result in significant morbidity, mortality, and substantial hospital resource utilization. Although influenza pandemics have the possibility of resulting in considerable illness, we must not ignore the impact that we can experience annually with SI.Methods: We compared the outcomes of pediatric patients ≤18 years of age at a large urban hospital with laboratory confirmed influenza and an influenza-like illness (ILI) during the 2009 pandemic and two prior influenza seasons. The primary outcome measure was hospital length of stay (LOS). All variables potentially associated with LOS based on univariable analysis, previous studies, or hypothesized relationships were included in the regression models to ensure adjustment for their effects.Results: There were 133 pediatric cases of nH1N1 admitted during 2009 and 133 cases of SI admitted during the prior 2 influenza seasons (2007-8 and 2008-9). Thirty-six percent of children with SI and 18% of children with nH1N1 had no preexisting medical conditions (p = 0.14). Children admitted with SI had 1.73 times longer adjusted LOS than children admitted for nH1N1 (95% CI 1.35 - 2.13). There was a trend towards more children with SI requiring mechanical ventilation compared with nH1N1 (16 vs.7, p = 0.08).Conclusions: This study strengthens the growing body of evidence demonstrating that SI results in significant morbidity in the pediatric population. Pandemic H1N1 received considerable attention with strong media messages urging people to undergo vaccination and encouraging improved infection control efforts. We believe that this attention should become an annual effort for SI. Strong unified messages from health care providers and the media encouraging influenza vaccination will likely prove very useful in averting some of the morbidity related to influenza for future epidemics. © 2010 Tamma et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
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